The Indians scored the first four points in the final quarter of the 11th Region Tournament championship on Saturday at McBrayer Arena — giving them their largest lead of the game.
That surge prompted Frederick Douglass coach Jason Moseley to call a timeout.
As the teams went to their benches, Kole Browne walked toward the middle of the court and focused his attention on the hundreds of blue-clad fans in the Madison Central student section and delivered a message.
"I just told them that I wasn't playing around," Browne said with a laugh about what he said to the fans. "And I didn't."
The senior backed up that big talk in a big way.
Browne scored 21 points and had 11 rebounds — and was named the tournament's most valuable player — as Central (21-9) claimed its first 11th Region championship in eight years with an 80-62 win over the Broncos (19-2). The Indians hit 19-of-22 free throws in the fourth quarter to finally pull away from Frederick Douglass.
Jaylen Davis had 21 points and Will Hardin added 19 points, eight rebounds and five assists for Central, which shot 56 percent from the field for the game.
The Indians move on to the Sweet 16 and will face Ballard (18-2) on Wednesday at 5 p.m. in Rupp Arena.
"We thought at the beginning of the season that we had a chance to do this," Madison Central coach Allen Feldhaus said after winning his fourth 11th Region title. "Things just didn't go our way, but I could see it with those seniors. They were kind of on a mission."
It certainly hasn't been easy.
The Indians were considered one of the preseason favorites in the 11th Region, but COVID-19 issues, injuries, family tragedies and a few lopsided losses left them with a less than impressive record.
"We finally get the COVID stuff behind us and Jaylen's dad passes away," Feldhaus said. "It was just one thing after another. They started to turn things around (at the end of the regular season). We started doing the things that we thought we were capable of doing all along."
Central knocked off No. 1 Lexington Catholic, 101-95, in the opening round of the 11th Region Tournament, then topped Franklin County, 67-51, in the semifinals on Thursday.
Those victories set up a re-match with the Broncos, who had beaten the Indians, 59-50, more than a month again in Lexington.
Central was without three starters — Braeden Ray, Hardin and Trey Skaggs — in that game.
The Indians, though, knew what the biggest key to beating Frederick Douglass on Saturday in the title game.
"Coach told us we had to out-rebound them," Browne said. "In the first half we didn't. In the second half, we did. I think that's what helped us extend the lead."
Douglass out-rebounded the Indians 23-16 in the first half on Saturday, including 13 offensive boards, and also had 12 second-chance points. Central hit 6-of-10 three-pointers, however, and took a 34-30 lead into halftime.
The Broncos answered back, scoring the first five points of the third quarter to take the lead.
"They came out and punched us in the mouth," Feldhaus said.
The Indians had been in that position before, but weren't always able to take the punch and fight back.
"Early in the season, we were getting killed in the third quarter. Lexington Catholic and North Laurel, they pulled away from us after halftime," Hardin said. "At the end of the season, we started pulling away from people."
The Indians quickly re-gained the lead against the Broncos on a lay-up by Davis and a basket by Trey Skaggs. Central used a 16-4 run, which including a run-down block by Davis and was capped by Browne, to take an 11-point lead.
"That was just the seniors saying, 'No. This is not going to happen,'" Feldhaus said of Central's third-quarter surge.
Browne had six points, five rebounds and one assist in the third quarter. He hit 8-of-10 free throws in the fourth to help secure a region title.
"He has really developed into a good senior leader," Feldhaus said of Browne. "It was just a great team effort."
Central had 14 assists on 25 field goals, despite having 14 turnovers.
The Indians were 8-of-14 from three-point range and hit 22-of-28 free throw attempts.
"In the fourth quarter, we hit some big free throws," Browne said. "Jaylen hit some big ones. Will hit some big ones. I hit some big ones. We just played really well as a team."
DaShawn Jackson, an Eastern Kentucky University commit, had 14 points and four rebounds for Douglass before fouling out. Kai Simpson led the Broncos with 18 points and five assists, while Julius Scearce had 12 points.
Douglass shot 35.8 percent from the field, while hitting only 6-of-28 three-point attempts.
Trey Skaggs had eight points and two rebounds for Central.
The championship — and the upcoming trip to Rupp — are a well-earned reward for a team which has faced an unbelievable amount of adversity.
"It's been tough," Browne said. "Braeden lost his dad two years ago. Jaylen lost his dad during the season. We told each other that this was going to be for them. We did it for them."
Ray was 4-of-6 from the field, had three rebounds and two assists on Saturday. He finished with nine points in 26 minutes of action.
The senior missed six games earlier in the season because of health and safety protocols.
"I was out for 17 days. That's a long time," Ray said. "I had to quarantine twice. It was hard to get back."
Getting to Rupp Arena has been the dream of these Central seniors since they were fourth-graders. Ray and Browne were in the stands as the Indians — led by Dominique Hawkins and Ken-Ja Bosley — claimed the Sweet 16 championship in 2013.
Now, they have a chance to do the same thing.
"Growing up, that was our goal. We want to go to Rupp," Ray said. "We finally did it. It feels great."