If Jonah Coble is Joliet Central’s ace, consider Antonio Dyson the Steelmen closer.
Coble scored 13 of his game-high 19 points in the first half and Dyson scored 10 of his 12 in the second half, including two huge putbacks down the stretch to lift Central to a 57-54 win over Hales in a McDipper quarterfinal Friday at Rich South.
“It’s just the way the games go for us,” Coble said. “I feel like if I can give us a spark early and ‘Ton’ can finish it, we’re going to be tough to stop.”
The Steelmen (9-2) saw their 46-40 lead trimmed to 46-44 when Dyson put in a teammates’ miss. He didn’t quite complete the flashy dunk he was looking for, but found the basket anyway.
Moments later, another Dyson putback extended the advantage to 52-47 with 1:38 to go.
Hales (7-5) got within two on a three-pointer from Dominic Christian (eight points, six rebounds) and got as close as one when E’mon Frison scored with eight seconds left to make it a 55-54 game.
Coble, though, hit two free throws and a long trey from Joe Larry at the buzzer was off the mark.
“It’s fun closing games out,” Dyson said. “I wish some shots would fall for me earlier in games, but I just stick with it.”
Larry and Tim Robertson (nine rebounds) led Hales with 13 points each.
After Larry scored 11 in the first half, Central focused on taking him away.
“We wanted to make other people on their team beat us,” Coble said.
Both teams struggled to get going, combining for 13 first-quarter turnovers as Hales led 11-10 after one. The game was tied 23-23 at the half.
The Steelmen closed the third on a 7-2 run, Dyson scoring four, to take a 38-37 lead.
Jason McNear and Jarvis Northington each scored four big points down the stretch to help Central put the game away.
After first-round losses each of the last three years in the tournament, the Steelmen are in the final four.
“We’ve always wanted to go to the right [the winner’s side of the bracket],” Central coach Jeff Corcoran said. “Now we just have to keep pushing forward.”