By Mark Clark
Even though his team had played only 11 games after Saturday night’s contest at Shaw High of Columbus, Central coach Bobby Wright feels pressured to find practice time for his squad. The Red Devils got a late start to the basketball season due to the school’s success in the football playoffs – making it to the semifinal round in Class 7A.
That made the coach reschedule games so that his team will be playing in three to dour games each week for the remainder of the season, leaving little time to practice before games.
“We are doing what we have to do to get ready for games. Some weeks it feels like we are playing every night. We have gotten by on our athleticism so far. We have been able to run against teams. Our plan has been to start fast and end fast,” Wright said.
While that strategy has worked so far, Wright knows he has to get his players ready for those nights when opponents will not run with them, instead calling for a delay-type game.
“We have a lot of football players who are still getting into basketball shape. I know my guys can play defense and run, but they have not learned a lot about how to play offense when our opponents run a delay. We have Auburn this week and they like to run the delay. They are very patient with the basketball. We have to be ready for that or anything else they may use,” Wright said.
Central is 1-0 in Area 4 with its 83-51 victory over Smiths Station last week. The Red Devils have already faced area foe Auburn once this season in a non-area contest in the William Henry Shaw Tournament in Columbus. Central won that meeting 55-48. Auburn took an early 12-2 lead and slowed the game’s pace which frustrated the Red Devils. After halftime adjustments, the Red Devils got back to their running game and won. Central and Auburn will have their second meeting of the season on Friday in Auburn.
Before playing Auburn, Central was scheduled to face Sidney Lanier at the Central Freshman Academy gym this past Tuesday evening. On Saturday, Central is on the road to play at rival Russell County High.
“I know the more games we play, the better we will get, but right now all I can do is throw the guys in there to get some playing time. This is a big week for us, but we cannot look ahead. All we can do is look at the next game. We still have some stuff we need to clean up. After we play Sidney Lanier, we can look at Auburn. Hopefully, we will get better this week,” Wright said.
One bright spot for Central was the return of senior Justyn Ross, who has missed the past month with an ankle injury and to play in two all-star football games. He returned for Central’s game with Smiths Station, but saw limited action in that game and the one with Shaw on Saturday.
“We know Justyn can help us, but he has to get in shape to play. He has some catching up to do, but he will be okay. He can really help us down the stretch. That is what we were hoping for when he went out,” Wright said.
Central started last week with a 63-56 victory over the defending Class 2A state champions Lanett High. Wright said the game gave his players a chanced to play against a taller squad.
“Lanett has some tall players. They start a pair of 6-7 guys and a 6-5 guy. They have another 6-5 player that comes off the bench. They have a good shot at winning their class again,” Wright said.
Lanett has won the Class 2A championship title in each of the last two seasons.
Donald Jackson had 27 points in the game to lead Central’s scorers. Tremaine Porter scored 14 points and Tremere Brown had 10 points for Central. Brown also had the first of his double-doubles for the week by grabbing 13 rebounds.
Up next for Central was the Area 4 victory over Smiths Station, 83-51. Central rolled ahead for a 25-4 lead in the first period and led 47-21 at the half. At the end of the third period, Central was on top 70-47.
Porter and Brown both had 18 points for the Red Devils against the Panthers. Jackson had 17 points and DeAnthony Miles scored 10 points. Brown had 11 rebounds.
Central closed out the week with a 76-59 victory over Shaw. Porter scored 20 points to lead Central in scoring. Devante Mathews had 17 points, Jackson scored 16 points and Brown added 12 points with 10 rebounds against the Raiders.