Central’s Punkay coming in clutch for Maroons


CHAMPAIGN (WCIA) — It’s the kind of shot that only seems to happen in the movies, but leave it to Pryce Punkay to get the job done. The Central senior has two game winning buzzer beaters this season, and they both happened in the same week.

“You see it all the time on social media, people having shots like that,” Punkay said. “To be able to have a few of my own now that I can go back and watch with my kids and my grand kids, that’s really special to me.”

The buzzer beater to win the home opener over Eisenhower wasn’t his only one-in-a million shot. The Maroons senior did it just a few days earlier, winning an overtime game over Sacred-Heart-Griffin.

“It feels good,” Punkay said about hitting the shots. “I trust myself and once you prove yourself, people start to trust you too. I kinda think that’s what happened here.”

“A lot of our guys get their shots just out of the flow of our offense,” Central head coach Jeff Finke said. “But with Pryce we’ve called some sets so it’s probably raised his confidence level, but with success comes confidence and he’s done it now for two seasons.”

The 6-foot-3 guard set the school record for 3’s with 96 last season. He will play at the next level and was also one of 300 athletes selected to participate in the NCAA Midwest Basketball Academy in Champaign over the summer. So far, Punkay has several Division II and II offers, but his talents have also garnered attention on social media, with at least 15,000 people watching the buzzer beaters.

“I was just happy we won,” said Punkay. “I didn’t really care, everyone was coming up to me and congratulating me, but hey it’s two wins in the win column so that’s all I really cared about.”

Punkay hopes to add to that win total this week, when the Maroons host Centennial for the first Crosstown Classic game of the new decade.

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