Monique Jackson and Kristi Mokube combined for 39 points and 17 rebounds as No. 6 Central-Phenix City defeated Smiths Station 79-32, ousting the Panthers in the opening round of the Alabama High School Athletic Association Class 6A Area 7 tournament at Central on Thursday.
The Red Devils (21-4) will host the area final at 7 p.m. Saturday and will play Opelika, which defeated Auburn 56-48 in overtime at Central on Thursday.
Central put Smiths Station into an early hole by scoring the first 13 points of the game and going ahead 15-1 before the Panthers could score a field goal. The Red Devils wanted to be loud and clear about with their championship ambitions, Jackson said.
“This was the start of a new season for us, so we wanted to make a statement,” said Jackson, who scored a game-best 20 points and grabbed nine rebounds. “We had to come out and not show any mercy and just handle business.”
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Central led 19-5 at the end of the first quarter and 41-14 at halftime. The Red Devils freely substituted players through much of the second half and led 61-20 at the end of the third period while continuing to force turnovers until the final seconds of the game. They spread the work around, too, with all 11 Central players to attempt a shot finishing with at least two points and a rebound. It was that kind of tenacity from players off the bench Central coach Carolyn Wright said the team will need if it hopes to defeat Opelika and make a playoff run.
“We’ve been asking the subs to come in and play as hard as the first string,” Wright said. “Getting into the regional playoffs, we’re going to need them to bring that kind of game and that kind of pressure if we want to keep winning.”
Mokube was 8-for-8 shooting from the floor when not fouled and finished with 19 points and eight rebounds. Jackson said she and Mokube were able to feed off of one another throughout the game.
“A lot of things Kristi can do, I’m not so good at, and I make up for her weaknesses,” Jackson said. “It’s something we work on all the time, so when it comes to the game, it looks easy.”
Defending Mokube and Jackson, who are 6-foot-3 and 6-foot-1, respectively, was a challenge for Smiths Station.
“I think (Central’s) size made the difference,” Smiths Station coach Shana Johnson said. “We were just undersized. I think our girls played hard, but it’s hard to compete when you don’t have girls that can match up with them inside.”
The Panthers were led by Roslyn Thomas, who scored 16 points and had nine rebounds. Teammate Achaia Cobb grabbed a team-high nine boards while scoring five points.
Chris White, 706-571-8571; follow Chris online at twitter.com/le_chriswhite and at facebook.com/lechriswhite.
@z-BR Agate Bold Centered:
Thursday at Central
Smiths Station 5 9 6 12 -- 32
Central 19 22 20 18 -- 79
Smiths Station (32)
Roslyn Thomas 16, Spivey 6, Cobb 5, Booker 4, Bess 1
Monique Jackson 20, Kristi Mokube 19, Banks 8, Sanders 8, Webb 5, Lewis 4, McMillon 3, Beasley 3, Shanks 3, Moore 2, Thomas 2, Watkins 2,
Team records: Smiths Station NA; Central 22-4. Next: Central vs. Opelika, 7 p.m. Saturday at Central.