IMPERIAL — The Central Union High boys’ basketball team staged a 14-point comeback here Friday night but was unable to overcome Imperial High, falling 56-53 to the Tigers.
It was the second time in as many years that the matchup between the boys in blue and red that went down to the closing seconds, with Imperial coming out on top both times.
“I thought we did good,” Tigers coach David Milan said. “We played in spurts, though.
“We controlled the tempo of the game early, but then we lightened up,” he said. “We got a little stagnant offensively and didn’t communicate on the defensive end, but we came out with the win.”
As Milan said, Imperial quickly went up early, finishing the first quarter with a 16-7 lead, thanks mostly to junior Royce Freeman, who finished the night with 22 points, nine rebounds, and six steals.
“I thought we played well as a team, but we should have played all four quarters like we would’ve liked to,” Freeman said.
“We need to improve on coming out in the second half with more urgency,” he said.
The Tigers went into halftime with a solid 15-point lead, but just as happened last year the Spartans came out in the third quarter firing on all cylinders.
Junior Jakob Salgado and backup Danny Ledesma combined to help the Spartans go on a 13-5 run to close the gap, with Ledesma seven points in a row.
Salgado finished with 15 points, 15 rebounds and four blocks, but it wasn’t enough to get past Imperial, who defensively shut down big Spartans center Luis Vizcaino for just eight points on the night.
Up by just one point in the waning seconds of the game, junior Chris Carter hit dagger-like free throws to preserve the win for Imperial, its third straight.
“They just took it to us,” Central coach Marty Zwart said. “They were able to stop our dribble and we couldn’t get our offense going.
“But being down by 15 and then making it a game showed that our guys never gave up,” he said.
Imperial (10-7, 2-0 Desert League) will visit Holtville High on Tuesday night, while Central (10-7, 1-0 Imperial Valley League) faces those same Vikings in Holtville on Friday night.