With 4:10 left in the fourth quarter of their home final Thursday, the Howard Hustlin' Tigers had their hands full. Thanks to a 9-2 run, the Central Purple Pounders had drawn within a point of the host Tigers, threatening to turn Howard's Senior Night into a train wreck.
Coach Walt McGary called a well-considered time out.
“I told them that Central had just taken its best shot,” McGary said following Howard's 64-49 victory.
“But they hadn't taken ours. I told them to look to the kid in the middle, that he would make all the right decisions.”
That “kid” is senior Rashad Brummitt, whose has been logging 32 minutes per night of late as the hub of the Howard offense. Hanging onto the most precarious of leads, 50-49, the Tigers scored the final 14 points of the game with Brummitt hitting a pair of field goals and dealing two assists to big man Brandon Walters.
With the score 52-49, the Pounders' last gasp came when DeWaun Swafford made a leaping steal at midcourt, beat two defenders to the goal and … slipped in the lane for a travel call. The Tigers answered with a Walters layup, and Central's offense the rest of the night consisted of overly long 3-point shots, all of which went awry.
“We don't have an answer for 6-foot-9, 280 pounds,” sighed Central coach Rick Rogers.
“DeWaun made a great play that would have made it a one-point game,” he said of the key sequence, “but we were spent.”
Walters may have had more spectacular nights this season, but few have been more productive. In addition to 33 points, one below his season high, he claimed 12 rebounds, four blocks and two assists. His fellow big man, senior Xavier Harris, scored 10 points with four assists, while Brummitt scored six points with four assists.
Swafford, who had another good all-around game for the Purple Pounders, scored 22, while Robert Cobb was the one Central senior who answered the supporting call and finished wth14 points. But Rogers had previously explained that must of the final stretch of the 12-3 season was waiting for explosive senior David Holley to find his game since tearing a back muscle.
Holley logged the minutes Thursday, playing well over 20, but hit a lone 3-point field goal for his offensive production.
“He's not himself yet,” said Rogers. “We're kind of waiting on him.”
The Howard girls are having a whale of a season, and Senior Night was no exception. Nee Nee Smartt (20 points) and Jeshayla King (14) combined for 36 in their final home game, but they shared the spotlight with junior Tyreshia Rollins, who led all scorers with 22 points Thursday night in a 63-43 win over Central.
Howard held just a 30-29 lead midway through the third quarter, but a King driving layup sparked a 16-5 run that broke the District 6-AAA contest open. The lead would have grown further, but Howard's season-long struggle at the foul line continued. The game began with the team missing 10 straight, and was only 5 of 20 for the game.
Sandrea Sylman was Central's top scorer with 12 points..
Central 14 9 15 11 – 49
Howard 13 12 19 20 – 64
CENTRAL (49) – DeWaun Swafford 22, Robert Cobb 14, Morgan 3, Stewart 7, Smith, Hill, Tramell, Holley 3.
HOWARD (64) – Smith 6, Cameron 1, Brummitt 6, Xavier Harris 10, Brandon Walters 33, McCawley 7, Young 2.
3-point goals: Central 3 (Swafford 3); Howard 1 (McCawley). Records: Central 15-6, 8-5 in 6-AAA; Howard 19-4, 11-2 in 6-AAA.
Central 15 9 10 9 – 43
Howard 8 19 15 21 – 63
CENTRAL (43) – Jones 8, Rogers 9, Davis 3, Powell, Sandrea Sylmon 12, Corley 8, Mitchell 2, McReynolds.
HOWARD (63) – Robinson 6, Nee Nee Smartt 20, Tyreshia Rollins 22, Jeshayla King 14, Smith, Johnson, Eberhardt, Green, Geiger 1, Williams.
3-point goals: Central 4 (Rogers 3, Jones); Howard 4 (King 2, Rollins 2). Records: Central 9-12, 6-7 in 6-AAA; Howard 11-6; 9-3 in 6-AAA.