Despite the basketball season still being in its early stages, the Central Pounders were clicking on all cylinders offensively and defensively Tuesday night.
Senior Isaiah Hayes led the way with 17 points as host Central dominated East Ridge 57-27 in a District 6-AA match-up. All nine Pounders that played got in the scorebook, and Central held the Pioneers to just ten points in the first half.
“We believe and try to instill into the kids' minds that we're a team,” said Central coach Kantonio Davis.
“We don't have individuals, we have a team. When we win, Central wins, and when we lose, Central loses. When we're on the floor we have to be unselfish and we have to maintain that throughout the season.”
“Defense is what we believe in here. I think the old saying is true that defense wins games and championships. The team that plays together, communicates well defensively and isn't scared to sacrifice their bodies usually comes out on top. We want to be that team. We want people to leave the game knowing they just played Central High School.”
The Pounders wasted no time jumping out to an early lead, scoring the first eight points on their way to a 12-4 advantage at the end of the first quarter.
Central had a perfect mix on offense, with everyone seemingly comfortable in their roles. Hayes and Alphonso Few dominated in the paint, each with an array of offensive moves both with their backs to the basket and facing up defenders in the low post.
Controlling the ball up top were a group of guards, led by Jokbi White, who consistently slashed and penetrated the gaps in the Pioneer defense, either creating shots for themselves or leading to easy buckets for the big men.
“Coach really preaches for us to get the ball inside because of our size,” said Hayes. “I think it's really important how well the guys do getting the ball to us down low. Coach also stresses for us to be physical both offensively and defensively; it's something that we work on all the time.”
With the offense like a well-oiled machine, the Pounders took control in the second quarter. Scoring the first 11 points in the period, and 16 of the first 17, Central opened up a 28-5 lead. Tavarus Grayson got hot from deep, making both of his 3's and scoring eight of his ten points.
Facing a 21-point halftime deficit, the young East Ridge team, who started two freshmen and a sophomore alongside two seniors, fought hard out of the locker room. Behind Devon Anderson's six points in the quarter, the Pioneers traded baskets for the better part of the period.
But with the game well in hand, Hayes took over and cemented the win for the home team. Few chipped in nine points, while White had six for the Pounders.
For Pioneers' coach Tre High, the game was just another stepping stone for his young team.
“We are really young, and we have nowhere to go but up,” said High. “I really like my group; I've got kids on the bench that look at me and say 'Coach, I'm ready.'. We're taking baby steps day by day. The next step for us is to win a few games, and ultimately make it to the region tournament. We just need game experience.”
“Most of our kids are playing both junior varsity and varsity. They're having some success on the JV team, and they just have trouble realizing when they come out here that this isn't JV, and they have to adjust to the higher level of play. As coaches, we tend to play good cop-bad cop. But I'm excited; I'm definitely not down on them. Baby steps, baby steps.”
Senior DeAngelo Hudgins scored eight points for the Pioneers, while Tyree Smith added five.
Central Girls 32, East Ridge 16: The Lady Pounders won a low-scoring affair over the Lady Pioneers, as Ja'nya West led the way with a game-high 16 points, the only scorer for either team in double digits.
Tied at six after a quarter, Central took control in the second, outscoring the Lady Pioneers 13-6. The Lady Pounders then held East Ridge scoreless in the third quarter, and to just four points in the second half on their way to victory.
Alona Allen scored eight points for Central, while Cherie Gamble and Justice Harvey led East Ridge with four points each.
EAST RIDGE 6 6 0 4 – 16
CENTRAL 6 13 3 10 – 32
EAST RIDGE (16) – Gamble 4, Harvey 4, Moton 2, Wade 2, Kennebrew 2, Williams 2, Stafford, Reynolds, Petty, Bassett.
CENTRAL (32) – Ja'niya West 16, Allen 8, Ladd 3, Parker 3, Glover 1, Valux 1, Robinson,
3-POINT GOALS: Central 3 (West, Ladd, Parker).
EAST RIDGE 4 6 10 7 – 27
CENTRAL 12 19 12 14 – 57
EAST RIDGE (27) – Anderson 8, Hudgins 8, Smith 5, White 3, High 2, Brookshire 1, Fonseca, Millsap, Robinson, Wallin.
CENTRAL (57) – Isaiah Hayes 17, Grayson 10, Few 9, White 6, Allen Jr. 5, Taylor 4, Turner 2, Tutton 2, Hubbard 2.
3-POINT GOALS: East Ridge 2 (Hudgins, Smith); Central 3 (Grayson 2, Allen Jr.).
(Email Kevin Llewallyn at email@example.com)