By Mark Clark
With two weeks under their belts after a delayed start to the season, the Central High Red Devils remained undefeated through their first five games. Central collected three of those five victories last week against Sidney Lanier, Eufaula and Opelika high schools.
“I’m happy with the team right now. At 5-0, I can’t be too sad,” Central coach Bobby Wright said.
And the Red Devils got those victories without returning senior starter Justyn Ross, who missed the early games last week while participating in the annual Alabama-Mississippi All-Star Classic in Hattiesburg, Miss. Ross is also recovering from an ankle injury and will probably be held out of this week’s William Henry Shaw Christmas Tournament.
“We do not want to use him until his ankle is well. We will need him more down the stretch when games are important. Right now, I’m like Nick Saban when it comes to an injury like Ross has, it’s “Next man up” for us,” Wright said.
Wright says his squad is playing well at this point because of two things – speed and defense.
“We are really playing pretty good overall, but we have more to do before we are going to be able to play our best basketball. We’re a pretty fast team, so we want to run on our opponents. We are not shooting as well as we would like, but we are making it up with our speed and with good defense. That has been our trademark over the years,” Wright said.
Central began play in the Shaw tournament last night against Hardaway in a game at Shaw High. The team is assigned to play in Group A of the tournament which includes Shaw, Northside, Carver, Auburn, Russell County, Columbus, Hardaway and Central. Central’s opponent for Thursday night will be determined by which teams win or lose in the first round.
Central rolled over all three of its opponents last week, winning 61-41 on the road at Sidney Lanier in Montgomery. They beat Eufaula, formerly No. 1 in their classification, but down to No. 6 when the Red Devils beat the Tigers 73-52. Central closed out the week with a 63-39 victory over Opelika on the road.
Wright said the Opelika game was the most surprising win of the week, not because it was unexpected, but rather because of the way the contest played out.
“Opelika was putting up a lot of three-point shots. I think they had 28 in the game. They made up pull out on defense to cover them and we limited them to seven made threes. It was a very good defensive game for us. Our kids held Opelika to 13 points in the second half. The first half was pretty tight,” Wright said.
Donald Jackson had his lowest point production of the week against Opelika with 20 points, but got plenty of assistance in that area from Tremere Brown with 15 points and Tremaine Porter with 12 points. It was the second game of the week that Central had three players in double figures.
“If you get three guys scoring double figures in a game, you will win some games. If you can get that to four guys with double figures, you will win a lot of games. We are looking for another player to step up and score for us. We’ve had some guys getting double digits in rebounding, but basically we have been a team that is rebounding by committee,” Wright said.
Brown had 15 rebounds to lead Central against Opelika while Jackson grabbed seven.
In the first game of the week, Central led 10-7 after a quarter against Sidney Lanier. By halftime, Central had upped its advantage to 34-14. It was never much closer. Jackson was the lone player in double figures with 31 points. He also had 12 rebounds. Brown scored nine points and collected 16 rebounds.
Against Eufaula, Central led 15-7 at the end of the first quarter and 41-26 at the half. Central outscored the Tigers 32-26 in the second half. Jackson finished the game with 27 points and 11 rebounds. Brown scored 17 points and grabbed 15 rebounds. Porter scored 16 points. Tyler Moore had seven rebounds for Central.
“We have been able to get all of our kids into every game so far. Hopefully, they will get the experience they need to improve the way they play and that will help us later in the season,” Wright said.