Central rebounds from slow start to win third straight
Happy holidays, indeed. Give each member of the Central High School boys basketball team a stocking stuffed with coal Tuesday, and they’ll still call it a Merry Christmas.
The Warriors, with a 50-43 victory Saturday over Adams City, gave themselves a rather satisfying present: a three-game winning streak entering the holiday break and the knowledge and confidence that these Warriors aren’t last year’s Warriors, even though many of the names on the roster are the same.
Central was winless last season. Saturday it won its fifth game in 12 tries.
But it needed to wake up first. The 11:30 a.m. game was the Warriors’ third in three days, and about all they did in the first quarter, when Adams City outscored them 15-10, was raise head coach Ryan Hayden’s blood pressure to an unhealthy level.
Hayden voiced his displeasure loud and clear during the quarter break, questioning his players’ effort and demanding they play better in the next quarter.
The Warriors responded, outscoring the Eagles 19-3 in the second quarter for a 29-18 lead at the intermission.
“We came out slow and flat. There was not a lot of intensity on defense,” said Central senior Matt Henderson, who hit two 3-pointers and scored eight points in the second quarter on his way to 12 points for the game. “Once we started getting deflections on defense, things really turned around for us.”
Guard Preston Grandbouche, who scored 13 points, said the Warriors deserved the harsh words from Hayden after the first quarter.
“It was our third game in three days; it’s mostly all mental on a Saturday morning,” Grandbouche said. “We came out way too flat, and we knew we were better than these guys, but we let them hang around.
“We had to turn it around on defense, and defense leads to offense. We just had to focus on that.”
That halftime lead disappeared quickly in the third quarter when Adams City sophomore Devante Loggins came out determined to carry the Eagles’ offense. He scored Adams City’s first 11 points of the second half in a variety of ways, pulling the Eagles within 31-29 with 4 minutes, 15 seconds left in the third quarter.
Another basket by Loggins, who finished with 28 points, pulled the Eagles within 39-37 with 5:24 remaining in the game.
Central, however, responded with an 8-2 run, fueled by six points from Trey Fair, to go ahead 47-39. The final four points of that outburst stemmed from fast breaks off long, downcourt passes. The first went to Fair, who could have gone to the basket but instead fed the ball to a streaking Henderson, who missed a layup, but Fair rebounded, was fouled and sank two free throws. The next long pass went directly to Henderson, and he took it in stride and made his layup.
The final 2:23 was made more interesting than it should have been as Central missed seven of eight free throws before Grandbouche swished a pair with 3.8 seconds left. Adams City, meanwhile, failed to capitalize.
“I think really what won it for us at the end was being able to get stops and get rebounds,” Hayden said.
Winning three games in a row, Hayden added, “is very monumental in our progress.
“We had a tough stretch of 12 games in 23 days. Being able to finish off this stretch with three wins going into the break is huge for us.”