By Mark Clark
When the Central High Red Devils take the court for their final two regular season games tomorrow night and Saturday night, Bobby Wright will make the serious changes that he hopes will help his squad make a return trip to the Alabama High School Athletic Association’s Final 4 tournament in Birmingham. That means no more Mr. Nice Guy when it comes to playing time and as he searches for some consistency from his team.
“We just have not been able to get any consistency all season. The kids that played football came out late. Several of them have been making recruiting trips, so I haven’t had them all at practice when we needed them. I have got to see which players are going to be able to help us reach our goal of getting past the regional tournament. I have got to find those kids I can trust to come off the bench to help us,” Wright said after his team won two of three games last week.
The Red Devils gained victories over Shaw High of Columbus and Northview High of Dothan. The team fell to area opponent Auburn High in overtime for its only area loss of the season.
“Against Auburn, I think we had one of those letdowns that kids have after they have beaten another team a couple of times. Sometimes they think they can walk on the court and win without any effort. Auburn came out and played very well. I think they are coming together at the right time. I can’t say that about us,” Wright said.
“We battled back to get into overtime with them, but missed free throws and made turnovers at the end that hurt. I hope the kids learned they are no better than the last game they played. We certainly did not play worth a quarter against them.”
But, Central won the regular season area title and a bye in the first round of the area tournament which means the Red Devils will advance to the Regional Tournament in Montgomery later this month. Auburn finished second in the area and will play Smiths Station on Feb. 8 at the Central Freshman Academy gym at 8 p.m. ET for the second spot in the regional and a chance to earn the No. 1 seed from the area against Central on Feb. 10. The loser of the area tournament’s title game will be the No. 2 seed in the regional tournament.
Before the Red Devils get to tournament play, they must finish out the regular season on the road at Eufaula High on Friday and at Hardaway High of Columbus on Saturday. Central enters the final week with a 17-2 record overall and a 3-1 area record.
“We worked hard during the regular season to get that automatic slot in the regional tournament. Winning that is a big plus for any team. It is a blessing. It takes some pressure off going into the area tournament,” Wright said.
In last week’s play, Central beat Shaw 72-59, rolling out to a 19-10 lead in the first quarter and to a 38-26 halftime advantage. After three quarters, Central led 52-37.
DeAnthony Miles led Central’s scorers with 17 points. Justyn Ross had 16 points, Donald Jackson 13 and Tremaine Porter 10 for the Red Devils.
In the loss to Auburn, the Red Devils trailed 25-12 after a quarter and 40-27 at halftime. When the third quarter was over, Auburn led 55-44. Central outscored Auburn 25-14 in the fourth quarter to tie the game at 69-69 and forced an overtime period. Auburn outscored Central 11-7 in overtime to win 80-76.
Jackson had 27 points to lead Central in scoring. Miles had 14 points, Ross scored 13 points and Porter added 11 points in the loss.
Central finished last week with a 61-50 victory over Northview. Jackson was the only player in double figures with 11 points.