By Jon Gerardi
The Daily Item
When Central Columbia coach Chris Snyder went into the locker room after Friday night’s game against Shikellamy, he immediately went over to Eric Beaver and congratulated him on the game, and not simply because the Blue Jays got a 50-33 win.
“I said to Eric, ‘congratulations on by far the best game of your career.’ That’s what we all witnessed tonight,” Snyder said. “I’ve never seen him that aggressive and I’ve never seen him that confident and I hope moving forward, that continues.”
What Snyder and everyone inside “The Bird Cage” at Central Columbia Elementary School saw was Beaver absolutely taking over in the second half, scoring a game-high 30 points and essentially single-handedly defeating Shikellamy in the District 4 Class AAA quarterfinals.
With the win, Central Columbia (16-6) advances to play Danville — an 83-41 winner over Athens on Friday as well — in the District 4 Class AAA semifinals.
Beaver scored 23 of his points in the second half, including going on an 13-0 run himself between the third and fourth quarters, hitting a majority of those points in the paint and countless with superbly timed hooks.
“When they (Shikellamy) went back to man to man, we knew we were going to be able to get Eric more involved and we did,” Snyder said. “We got him the ball and he finished. I don’t know if I’ve ever seem him as aggressive to the rim as he was tonight all season long.”
While the Blue Jays won by 17, it wasn’t until the fourth quarter that the game was all but out of reach.
The Braves (12-11) — who ended the season on a hot streak by winning their last two against playoff contenders Jersey Shore and Milton to get into districts — held with the No. 2-seeded Blue Jays for the first three quarters.
After an early run to start the game by Central Columbia in which it led by seven, Shikellamy battled back to take a 12-10 lead going into halftime. Derek Amerman (team-high 11 points) helped spark Shikellamy in the first quarter, sinking two big 3-pointers in the final two minutes to give the Braves a lead.
“We weren’t shooting the ball very well (in the first half) and I give them credit, they’re a solid defensive team, but our shots weren’t falling,” Shikellamy coach Tim Foor said. “We weren’t really attacking the basket a lot and it sort of snowballed in the second half for us.”
The Braves shot just 3-for-14 from inside the arc in the first half as Central Columbia’s defense yielded very little.
While Beaver was a force offensively, Payton Aucker had a solid night off the glass, grabbing a team-high 12 rebounds while Joey Eckenrode dished out six assists and Kevin Krause added five.
Shikellamy kept it close in the third quarter as Garrett Kemberling (eight points, eight rebounds) hit a nice putback with 4:40 to play to put the Braves up by one before C.J. Tyler (eight points, four assists) scored off a layup less than 40 seconds later to make it a 20-17 Shikellamy lead.
The Blue Jays responded after Tyler’s layup with a 7-0 spurt to close the quarter out, sparked by Adam Zalewski’s trey, to go up 24-20 heading into the third.
Shikellamy would cut the deficit with a Kemberling putback to open the fourth quarter and make it a 24-22 game, but by the next time Shikellamy scored — off a putback by Ryan Kenney — the Braves were staring at a 7-point deficit and never got it any closer.