cougarsPeoria bound ­— Central senior Dan Rosen (22) and the Cougars basketball team etched their first ever trip to the state basketball tournament with a 53-51 win over Paris in the Class 1A Eastern Illinois Super-Sectional on March 11, 2003. The Cougars ended the season with a 28-5 record. (Photo by Jeremy Chawgo)    They had six-straight winning seasons, but had only won one regional and had not won a sectional in the school’s history.  But that all changed in the 2002-2003 season for the Central High School boys basketball team.
    The Cougars won three regional crowns in the early ‘70s before going the next 24 seasons without a regional title.
    Head coach Stan Eagleson led the Cougars to 20-win seasons in 1996-1997, 1997-1998, 1998-1999 and 1999-2000 with the lone regional title coming in the 1998-1999 season when they finished 25-8. 
    The title came at the hands of a major upset win over top-ranked and previously unbeaten Nashville at Assembly Hall in Washington County.   The Cougars dropped the next game 52-49 to Sesser-Valier in Sparta.
    The Cougars followed that with 57 wins over the next three seasons, but they just could not put things together in the postseason against tough competition.
    That all came to an end in the 2002-2003 season where the Cougars had five seniors and a talented junior at Eagleson’s disposal.
    The regular season had its ups and downs for the Cougars including a second-place finish in the Effingham Tournament with wins over Mattoon and Effingham before they fell to the top ranked team in the state, Madison, in the title game by 18 points.
    The Cougars rattled off three straight wins over Freeburg and Triad in Breese along with a road win in Marissa as they moved to 5-1 on the season.
    Central would drop the next two home games on the schedule with losses to Civic Memorial and Wesclin.  Central junior Adam Buehne had 29 points in the two losses.
     The Cougars then had a successful campaign at the Mater Dei Holiday Tournament by winning four of their five games in which Buehne made the All-Tournament Team. 
    The Cougars also got strong tournament play from seniors Jeremy Haar, Jon Kampwerth and Taylor Koetting along with sophomore Adam Brichler. 
    Their lone loss at the MD Tournament was against Okawville on Dec. 27.  The rest, is what put the Cougars basketball program on the map.
    They would go the next 77 days without losing a game.  The Cougars won their next 20 games with several different scoring leaders for CHS.
    They stepped back into regular season play with road wins in Dupo and Hamilton County before moving to 13-4 on the season with a home Cahokia Conference win over Columbia.  Kampwerth was unstoppable in the win over Dupo with 27 points.  Koetting netted 13 points in the win over Columbia while John Hawley had 11 points.
    The Cougars followed that torrid play by sweeping through the Nashville Invitational Tournament with double-digit wins over Trico, Wesclin and Gibault.  In the win over Trico, Brichler, Haar, Hawley, Kampwerth and Koetting each scored in double figures.
    After a 17-point win over Carlyle in Breese, the Cougars played road warriors by winning their next three away games in victories over Highland, New Athens and Red Bud.  Kampwerth had 17 points against Highland and Buehne scored 20 at Red Bud as they reached the 20-win plateau which would start a run of 15 years with at least 18 wins in a season for CHS.
    The Cougars then returned home for a 17-point win over rival Mater Dei in a game where Kampwerth scored 14 points and Haar added 12.
    Central was not tested through the rest of the season as they took down Lebanon and Greenville by a combined 38 points to end the regular season with a 23-4 record.
    The Cougars opened up postseason play in the Class 2A Mater Dei Regional with a 50-34 rout over Carlyle in the semifinal.  Buehne and Koetting each scored 13 points in the victory.
    Central then used a 37-24 run in the second half of the title game to defeat Wesclin 58-48. 
    The Cougars then shocked the state by beating top ranked Madison in the semifinal of the Wood River Sectional on March 5, 2003.  The Cougars used an 8-0 run to start the fourth quarter to get a 7-point lead that they never relinquished.  Koetting scored 10 of his game-high 15 points in the second half.  Hawley had 11 points while Brichler and Kampwerth scored 10 points each.
    Haar took over in the Wood River Sectional title game with a 23 point effort that included him hitting 8-of-10 from the line.  He added a trio of 3-pointers in the 66-52 victory over Alton Marquette.  Buehne scored 15 points in the win.
    The Cougars didn’t disappoint in the Eastern Illinois University Super-Sectional with a 53-51 nail-biter over Paris who came into the game ranked 16th in state.
    The Cougars led throughout much of the contest with the Tigers draining back-to-back 3-pointers to get within two points with 33 seconds left.  Buehne drained a pair of free throws with Brichler adding one charity shot to get the lead to five points.  KC Denson drilled his third 3-pointer in the final minute to get the Tigers within 53-51 but the clock expired and sent the Cougars to Peoria for the first time in school history.
    Koetting scored 14 of his 15 points in the first half as Central enjoyed a double-digit lead much of the first three quarters.  Buehne added 13 points in a game that saw the Cougars hit 14-of-20 from the line.
    The Cougars would see their season end one game later in the Class 2A Elite Eight in Peoria.  They dropped their quarterfinal game 65-47 to eventual state champion Hales Franciscan.  Koetting was strong again for the Cougars with 17 points while Haar and Hawley each scored eight points.
    The 28 wins, at that time, set a school record for wins while their 20-game winning streak was also a school record at the time. 
    Buehne led the Cougars with 391 points during the season which was good for 13 points per contest.  Koetting added 12 points per game for Central while Kampwerth scored 10 points per game.  Haar scored eight points per game for Central which included a team-high 42 3-pointers.  CHS averaged 55 points per game while allowing 45 points per game. 

Where are they now?
    We now take a look at what some of the 2002-2003 Elite Eight Central Cougars basketball team individuals are doing in 2020.
    Leading scorer and starting forward Adam Buehne works in remote sales at Simpson Strong Tie and is married to Sadie (Zurliene) and they live in Aviston with their two children.
    Guard Jeremy Haar works for Fehrmann Garage Doors and is married to Gina (Athmer) and they live in Aviston with their two kids. 
    Guard John Hawley is a regional sales manager at Basler Electric in Denver, Colorado.  He is married to Amanda (Burns) and they live in Denver with their daughter.
    Forward Jon Kampwerth is an information technology analyst at The Republic of Tea and  is married to Larissa (Verdeyen).  They live in Aviston with their three kids.
    Floor general Taylor Koetting works for the family business at Koetting Insurance.  He is married to Danielle (Timmermann) and they live in Breese.
    Forward Adam Brichler is part owner of GrassMasters in Aviston and he is engaged to Cortney Petermeyer.  They live in Aviston.
    Sixth man star Danny Rosen is an insurance agent at State Farm in Mascoutah and he is married to Carrie (Netemeyer).  They live in Trenton with their two kids.
    The late Kyle Norrenberns played in 19 games that season for the Cougars and scored four points a game.  Norrenberns passed away on Jan. 14, 2016.
    Head coach Stan Eagleson is now retired from coaching and teaching and lives with his wife Connie in Breese and he has three grandchildren.
    Next week we will feature a dual story on the 2010 Central High School and Mater Dei High School volleyball teams which both made the state title game in their respective classes with a total of 71 victories.

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