Central High boys basketball coach Bobby Wright said earlier this week that it wouldn't be easy to beat the same team, Auburn, three times in a single season.
And while it might not have been "easy," the Red Devils certainly made it look like it was.
In a dominating performance in which it never trailed, Central defeated Auburn 89-61 on Friday in the semifinals of the Area 5-6A tournament. With the win, it advances to face Opelika in the championship game on Monday.
"Our game plan was to come out and have a fast-paced tempo," Wright said after the game. "Auburn does a good job in the half court, so we wanted to keep it a full-court game."
The Red Devils (20-6) jumped out to an 8-0 lead in the early moments of the game. They extended that lead to as many as 15 points in the first quarter and entered the second up 24-11.
That's when guard Ronnie Battle showed up.
Battle knocked down four three-pointers in the second quarter, including three in a row, to up his first-half total to six. He scored 24 of his game-high 29 points in those two quarters, and by the time his offensive barrage had come to an end, Central was up by an insurmountable 22 points, 45-23, at the break.
"Ronnie is an excellent shooter," Wright said. "He's probably the best shooter I've coached."
Battle finished the game 7-of-10 from behind the arc. As a team Central hit 10-of-17 from long-range.
After halftime, the rest of the game was a formality. Central continued its dominating defense, which allowed the majority of Auburn's points in fourth-quarter mop-up minutes. It converted turnovers into easy points, eventually building its lead to as many as 35 points late in the game.
"We wanted to disrupt the offense," Wright said. "We pressed them to keep them from being structured offensively."
In addition to Battle, the Red Devils had four others in double-figures: Kavett Lamb and DeVontae Lindsey with 12, Anthony Moore with 11 and Devin Pugh with 10. Auburn was led by Tez Brooks (13 points) and Josh Tolbert (11 points).
Wright said that, while he's not overlooking Opelika, which is playing some of its best ball of the season, by any means, he is happy to be in the state tournament.
The championship game will be played at 8 p.m. Monday at Central High.
Friday at Central
Auburn 11 12 16 22--61
Central 24 21 22 22--89
Brooks 13, Tolbert 11, Ferguson 9, Daniels 6, Ikenjani 6, Allen 6, Jacobs 4, Grady 2, Riggs 2, Johnson 2.
Battle 29, Lamb 12, Lindsey 12, Moore 11, Pugh 10, Joseph 6, Rodgers 5, Jones 2, Pridgett 2.
Records: Auburn, 8-18; Central, 20-6. Next: Auburn, season over; Central, Monday vs. Opelika.