Minutemen save a record

Central Minuteman
Off to St. Paul Central for a big St. Paul City showdown between Johnson and Central.  Johnson coming into the game with a 55 game conference winning streak.  Central has the all-time record with a 56 game streak in the mid 80s.  Central was also the last team to beat Johnson in league play, also at Central, on January 18th, 2008.  No Minute Maid on the menu so I'll have to settle for 12 oz of Sprite.  Valley City State in the building to keep an eye on Quashingm Smith-Pugh of Johnson.  We also get a quality performance from the largest band in the land with the Central pep band taking up a large section.  The Central Minuteman mascot sporting the outstanding hat and doing an outstanding job pacing the sideline.  I'm no photography expert but I had to get a quick one to try to do the mascot some justice.

Johnson did lose a big game to a conference rival during the streak but in a non-conference scenario.  Can you name it?  Answer at the end of this post.

Game Time
Central showing a possession of THE WORLD'S WORST OFFENSE.  That results a Markus Taylor-Knighten post up and 3 point play for a 6-1 Minutemen lead.  More importantly its the 2nd foul on Smith-Pugh and he has to sit at the 15:23 mark.  Johnson cuts the lead to 1 but the offense sputters with Smith-Pugh on the bench.  Taylor-Knighten backcuts for a 3 point play, grabs 2 offensive boards for a bucket, knocks down a jumper and then makes 2 technical free throws as Johnson is totally frustrated.  The run is 9-0 in 3:46.  15-5 Central at 8:51.  Smith-Pugh returns at the 6:32 mark.  Johnson with 1 field goal in the 1st 12:20 but they do have a mini rally in them.  Central misses a lob and Smith-Pugh takes it the other way for 2.  Johnson adds a putback and they're within 21-14 at the 2:40 mark.  26-14 Central at the half

A Central steal for 2 free throws is Jalen Mobley's 4th foul with 13:37 to play.  Guard Rayeon Williams with a jumper and Central is up 35-21 with 12 minutes left.  Vern Simmons regroups his guys in a timeout and they go back to good old Johnson full court pressure.  Smith-Pugh puts back a miss and a turnover is a Govs layup.  Lead down to 6 and now Central coach Scott Howell needs a timeout to settle his guys down.  35-27 at the 10:05 mark.  Mobley then fouls out at the 9:50 mark on a John Lithgow hand check.  But as the 2nd best offensive option, you have to wonder why he wasn't sitting.  A Central turnover for 2 free throws cuts the lead to 5 and it looks like Central is seriously crumbling.  Taylor-Knighten with a nice scoop and a Felix Taylor Jr. drive and the Central lead is 40-31 inside 7 to play.

Central never puts this one away as they miss 11 free throws in the last 7 minutes.  But they do get some clutch plays.  Taylor-Knighten with his last block of the night to protect a 6 point lead with 3:30 to go.  Central would get another block on the next possession but then throw a long outlet pass away.  Taylor does make 6 of 8 in the last 2 minutes to help the cause.  Smith-Pugh misses 2 with 17.7 left that could have cut the lead to 3 and really made it interesting.  Central goes on to win 53-49. 

Post Game
For Johnson, Lazerik Gilbert leads with all 17 of his points in the 2nd half, 11 in the last 2 minutes as the Govs tried to rally.  Quashingm Smith-Pugh 11 points despite being in foul trouble.  Just no offensive flow for the Govs.  When they turned up the defense midway through the 2nd half it had a 5 minute stretch of bothering Central.  Once they dealt with it, Govs had no answer.  Johnson falls to 6-5.  They host Como Park Friday before a showdown with Edina in the Super 60 on Saturday night. 

Central improves to 10-5 with the win and 3-0 in the conference.  Markus Taylor-Knighten was outstanding, particularly in the 1st half but he also cleaned up the boards in the 2nd half.  He finishes with 19 points, 18 rebounds and 4 blocks on my sheet.  14, 8 and 3 of those in the 1st half to help Central jump out to the double figure lead.  Guard Felix Taylor took care of some late free throws to end up with 12 points.  They used some 2-3 to good effect in this one.  When you look at the roster, don't be surprised at this result.  They've got the top post in the league (Malik Durant-Haines) and have more firepower than Johnson does.  Add in a star player in Taylor-Knighten and you have a dangerous club.

Central has 3 straight tough games to end the week.  Minnehaha on Thursday, at Highland Park for the league lead on Friday and a short turnaround for Kennedy on Saturday afternoon in the Super 60.  They didn't show much depth tonight, we'll see if that comes into play with 4 games in 5 days.  The Central rematch at Johnson is Thursday, February 14th and expect a fun atmosphere on the east side for that one.

Trivia Answer:
The answer is St. Paul Como Park.  The Cougars upset Johnson 72-61 in the 4AAA section final on March 18, 2008.  Como Park lost the 2 regular season meetings by a combined 9 points in low scoring games.

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