By Mark Clark
With a win over Auburn High last week, the Central High Red Devils have put themselves in position to win a twenty-fifth area title since 1978 and their eleventh consecutive area title. A win tomorrow night against Smiths Station will assure that the Red Devils will at least share the title and keep them ahead of the Tigers by eight. Auburn has 17 area titles with its first coming in 1964.
“Our goal is to win every game we play. We especially want to win the area title so that we do not have to meet an area champion in the first round of the South Central Regional in Montgomery. We are in a pretty good position to do that this season. We’re 2-0 in the area with two games to go. We can at least share in another area title with a win on Friday against Smiths Station. We have to tend to our own needs. We do not want to rely on anyone else to get what we want as a team,” Central coach Bobby Wright said.
Central is 14-4 with just seven regular season games and the Martin Luther King Tournament remaining. Central started this week off with a game on the road against Sidney Lanier. Tomorrow night, the Red Devils take on Smiths Station in an area game to be played at the Central Freshman Academy gym. On Saturday, Central will travel to Dothan to face Northview.
Central has defeated both Smiths Station and Auburn in area play so far. If Central wins on Friday against Smiths Station, it would go to 3-0 in the area and win at least a share of the area title. A loss will force Central to have to defeat Auburn in Auburn for a share of the title if not the title outright. Auburn still has to play Smiths Station in its other area game. Auburn is 1-1 and Smiths Station is 0-2.
Once the area race is determined, the winning team will get the No. 1 seed in the area tournament and an automatic place in the South Central Regional. The second and third place teams will play to see which one will get the other place from the area in the regional tournament. The area tournament winner gets the top seed for its side of the bracket in the regional and the loser will get the second seed in the other side of the bracket and will have to play that side’s top seed.
If things go as they have so far, Central should not have a problem reaching its goal of another area title. Central defeated Smiths Station 77-33 in the first meeting of the two squads in Smiths Station. Central defeated Auburn last week 59-27.
“We had to treat those two teams differently. Smiths Station has a kid that’s a very good shooter and we had to shut him down. We doubled up on him and I think he had nine points. Auburn was a different type of team than Smiths Station. Auburn likes to play a slow game. You cannot allow them to just dictate the tempo and walk the ball up the court. We pressured them to get them to speed things up. If you don’t do that, they will hold the ball and pass it around 10 or 12 times before they shoot,” Wright said.
Wright was most impressed with his team’s lack of turnovers against Auburn. The Red Devils had nine for the game, six coming in the first half.
“I thought someone had made a mistake when I saw we only had six turnovers at the half. We usually have 12 or more turnovers at halftime. I was really pleased to see us doing a better job of taking care of the basketball,” Wright said.
Tremere Brown had 22 points and 17 rebounds to lead the Red Devils over Auburn. Devonte Mathews had 16 points. In the loss to Eufaula last week, Brown had 20 points with 12 rebounds. Tremaine Porter had 15 points.
Wright knows his team has some improving to do before the postseason begins. “The key for us is to get better and I know we are doing that. Still, we need to keep working hard to win the area and make it to the regional tournament. Once you get there, anything can happen. With the youth we had coming into this season, I didn’t know what to expect. I guess I still don’t know what to expect the rest of the way. But, I am seeing a lot of improvement since this year started,” Wright said.