The rough-and-tumble nature of triple round-robin Western Athletic Conference basketball has been duly noted by Central Catholic boys coach Mike Wilson.
"We view the series with each team as a three-round boxing match, a championship bout, and we just got the first round against Livingston," said Wilson after his Raiders pounded away inside Tuesday night for a 75-68 victory over the Wolves.
Central Catholic's double inside presence of Dan Hulst and Dusty Killian proved too much for Livingston to handle, especially after Wolves center Harnarinder Johal found himself in foul trouble.
Hulst went off for 27 points, despite going only 5 for 12 at the free-throw line, while Killian added 17 points. Johal managed 13 points before fouling out with 6 minutes, 13 seconds remaining.
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The game was rough enough to be decided by foul trouble and at the line.
Livingston (12-4 overall, 2-1 in WAC) was whistled for 28 fouls and had four starters foul out. Central (12-3, 3-0) wasn't immune to foul calls, committing 19.
The Raiders went 25 for 41 at the stripe, while the Wolves made 13 of 19.
"We got into foul trouble early and it continued," said Livingston coach Angelo Naldi. "The second group brought us back in the game, then the first group got right back into foul trouble."
Central Catholic appeared to have the game under control late in the third quarter when Livingston guard Dorian Campos joined his team's foul trouble parade, picking up his fourth.
The Raiders led 56-43 at that point, and the Wolves played the final 2:33 of the quarter with one starter on the floor.
But Livingston's reserves more than held their own, and delivered the game to the starting five trailing 59-50 to open the fourth quarter.
Inspired and rested, the Wolves opened the fourth quarter on a 7-0 run to narrow the gap to 59-57, just in time for Johal to foul out.
Central responded with its own 7-0 run, but Campos scored six of his 21 points in an 8-0 Livingston run to pull the Wolves within 66-65 with 2:27 left.
But before Livingston would manage another field goal, it suffered the loss of three more starters to fouls, and the Raiders made 7 of 8 free throws in the final 57 seconds to pull away.
Round One to Central Catholic.
"We're viewing it like that, and we're not looking forward to going to Livingston's place at all," Wilson said. "That's going to be real tough, but in this league you have to get ready to play every night."
Bee staff writer Brian VanderBeek can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 578-2300.