It's been an up-and-down season for coach Jon Goddard and his East Ridge boys basketball team. There have been days when they played well and been successful while there have been days where things just didn't go as planned.
Things appeared to go pretty much according to plan on Friday night in the friendly confines of their Catherine Neely Gymnasium as the Pioneers got off to a fast start and had an even faster finish as they evened their record at 8-8 with a resounding 63-39 victory over the Central Purple Pounders.
Central was without two starters, including their point guard and their leading scorer, but chances are good their presence probably wouldn't have made the difference on this occasion.
The Pioneers were clicking on all cylinders as they shot the ball extremely well, but nobody in the gym shot it any better than 5-11 senior Kolbe King, who nailed seven 3-pointers and led both teams with 23 points, a career high for him.
Needless to say, coach Goddard was a pretty happy fellow when the final horn sounded.
"We can shoot it like that when we share the basketball and that's what we did tonight,' he began after his team had improved to 8-8 overall and 3-4 in District 6-AA.
"We need to develop some consistency and that's what we've been trying to do in practice as we just want to be more well-rounded. We felt like we gave one away the last time we played at Central, so the guys came out ready to play.
"Central has a good basketball team, even with two of their starters out tonight," Goddard added.
Central coach Rick Rogers knew that the odds were stacked against his team long before the first basket was scored.
"East Ridge played a great game, but we'll be pretty good when we get everybody back," Rogers said, referring to those two starters who will be back in time for Tuesday's home game with Brainerd.
"They got off to a great start, but we played our tails off to get back in it. We were down by eight at the half and cut it to three late in the third quarter before we got called for an offensive foul. East Ridge went down and hit a 3 and we never got close again," he tried to relive the last two minutes of the third stanza when East Ridge used a 9-0 run for a 40-28 lead with one quarter remaining.
"We just have to learn how to come back from something like that and how to fight through adversity. It was hard for us to get in any kind of flow offensively with our point guard and leading scorer missing. I was hoping that we'd compete with them, but if we were going to lose, I didn't want it to be close. I guess I got my wish," Rogers nodded.
East Ridge's JoJo Tillery and Central's Jordan Long traded 3s to start the fourth quarter, as the Pioneer lead was 43-31 with just over seven minutes remaining.
That's when the bottom fell out for the Pounders. Going on a 20-1 run in the next five minutes, East Ridge put away any thought of a Central comeback as they won going away with Jeff Thomas scoring from the wing with 2:10 remaining to give the Pioneers their biggest lead of the game at 63-32.
Central then scored the final seven points to cut the final margin to 24.
King's 23 was tops for the Pioneers and included 11 points in that fourth-quarter run. Tillery was next with 10 while Eddie Hitchcock and Keion Jones had seven apiece.
Long was the leading scorer for Central with 11 points. Ryan Montgomery had seven and Jerome Stewart six for the Pounders.
East Ridge also won the rebound battle by a 32-26 margin with Cordarius Talley grabbing 10 for the winners and Brian Billingsley eight for Central.
East Ridge goes to Hixson on Tuesday for its next game while Central will be at home on the same evening to host the Brainerd Panthers.
Central is now 5-3 overall and 3-3 in 6-AA.
CENTRAL GIRLS 59, EAST RIDGE 47: Junior Sandrea Sylman had a game to remember as she personally led the Lady Pounders to their ninth win in 14 games.
Sylman had 17 points in the first half as Central built a 31-24 lead before adding 14 more in the second half to finish with a career-high 31. She also had 10 rebounds to go along with five steals, a couple of assists and a block.
Shamiya Jones and Markisha Davis were next in scoring for Central with eight and seven points, respectively. Rebekah Hill only scored three points for the Lady Pounders, but she made her presence known with nine rebounds.
Rabbit Lawrence and Jayla Stone were tops for East Ridge with 25 and 19 points, respectively.
CENTRAL 16 15 12 16 -- 59
EAST RIDGE 7 17 12 11 -- 47
CENTRAL (59) -- S. Jones 8, Ransom, Rogers 3, Davis 7, Sylman 31, Hixson, Grampp 3, N. Jones, Hill 3, Miller, East 2..
EAST RIDGE (47) -- Stone 19, Kendrick, Martin, Moon 1, Lawrence 25, Tate, Hill, Moore 2.
3-POINT GOALS: Central 3 (Rogers, Sylman, Grampp); East Ridge 2 (Stone 2).
CENTRAL 7 12 9 11 -- 39
EAST RIDGE 14 13 13 23 -- 63
CENTRAL (39) -- Tiller 2, Billingsley 5, Montgomery 7, Stewart 6, Benford, Poole 4, Swafford, Baxter 2, Long 11, Boyd, Lane 2, Lewis.
EAST RIDGE (63) -- King 23, Tillery 10, Hughes, Millener, Talley 5, Thomas 2, Hitchcock 7, Jones 7, Moore, Garmany 3, Rieniche, Blair 6.
3-POINT GOALS: Central 1 (Long); East Ridge 11 (King 7, Tillery 2, Hitchcock, Garmany).
(Email John Hunt at email@example.com)