By Mark Clark
Central High’s boys’ basketball team heads into the annual area tournament with all of its goals still in sight. The team reached its first one last week when it defeated Eufaula High 83-76 in overtime at the Freshman Academy gymnasium. The team won its 20th game of the season.
Central, 20-6, will be playing for the area tournament title on Saturday night at home against the winner of the Auburn High vs. Smiths Station High first round contest. Central won the regular season area title which gave the Red Devils a bye in the first round of the area tournament. Smiths Station plays Auburn tonight at 7:30 p.m. ET at the Freshman Academy gymnasium.
With the regular season title in hand – its 12th consecutive area title – Central has already booked its spot in the South Central Regional tournament in Montgomery next week. It is the 20th consecutive year that the Red Devils have made it to the regional level of the Alabama High School Athletic Association playoffs. The area tournament championship game will determine which of the two finalists is the No. 1 seed from the area and which is the No. 2 seed. The South Central Regional winner will advance to the Super 7 as part of the Class 7A Final Four tournament.
Central made it to the Final Four last season and lost in the first round to the eventual state champion – Mountain Brook High.
“It really feels good to know we still have all of our goals ahead of us. All of them are still obtainable. No matter what happens, I am just so proud of this team and what it has accomplished so far,” Central coach Bobby Wright said of his team.
Wright said he is looking forward to sitting during the first round of the area tournament.
“It sure takes a lot of pressure off of us knowing we are already going to be in the regional tournament in Montgomery. We get to sit and watch Auburn play Smiths Station. Those teams are the ones with the pressure on them. If they lose that game in the first round, their season is over. Do not expect us to be resting while we may not be playing in that first game. We will be working hard to try to get to our other goals,” Wright said.
Wright said he has watched his team improve with each game though at times it has lost its focus for a game or two. Back as the Christmas holidays approached, the Red Devils were averaging 24 turnovers a game. Against Eufaula in its final regular season game, that number dropped to 14.
And, Wright was excited to see four of his players scoring double figures against Eufaula in that same game.
“You get three guys scoring in double figures, you are going to win most of your games. You get four guys scoring double figures and you are going to win a lot of games. It has been fun watching this bunch improve. They have bought in to what we are trying to do. They have done it for the most part without a true point guard,” Wright said.
Central also had two of those players who scored double figures grab double figures in rebounds as well. Tremere Brown scored 18 points and grabbed 11 rebounds. Radarius Hinnant scored 13 points and grabbed 10 rebounds. Tremaine Porter was the leading scorer for Central against Eufaula with 22 points. Marquez Henry had 19 points for the Red Devils.
Central trailed Eufaula 23-17 after one period of play. At the half, the Red Devils trailed 43-37. When the third quarter ended, Central was ahead 61-60. The game ended at 74-74 at the end of regulation. In overtime, Central outscored Eufaula 9-2 to win the game.
“We got the lead in overtime and then spread out and made them come out and play us. The difference in the game was our changing defense in the second half. We went to a triangle and two to cover their two leading scorers and then played zone against the other guys. Eufaula couldn’t quite figure out how to get around us after that,” Wright said.