A slow start turned into a furious finish for the Central boys basketball team on Tuesday night in the Shaw boys tournament final at Carver High.
The normally fast-paced Red Devils were slowed in the first half against Spencer, but finished with a strong fourth quarter to pull away for a 61-36 win.
With the win, Central remains undefeated, though coach Bobby Wright said the record didn’t matter much yet. He did allow, however, that the tournament championship was a good confidence booster heading into region play.
“We certainly hope this will help us,” Wright said. “Our kids have played a bunch of basketball already, so it should help our confidence going forward.”
For most of the third quarter, Central and Spencer exchanged opportunities, missing some and converting on some. But with just over three minutes to go in the quarter, neither team had a clear advantage as Central held just a five-point lead.
Red Devils guard Devin Pugh hit his stride at the end of the quarter, however, to give his team the advantage it was looking for. He scored six points in the final two minutes as Central went on an 8-0 run to jump ahead 36-23 by the end of the period.
After making some adjustments in its defense and tempo, Central began to reap the benefits down the stretch, forcing turnovers and contested shots. The Red Devils closed the contest on an 11-0 run to win by 25.
“We decided we needed to full-court press them in the second half,” Wright said of his team’s adjustments. “We decided we needed to pick up the tempo, so we pressed to force them to speed it up. We weren’t running our offense very fast, so they had time to make adjustments.”
Once the halftime adjustments kicked in, Central began to execute on more trips down the court, taking advantage of its opportunities.
Pugh led the way for Central down the stretch, scoring 12 points in the second half. He finished with 21 points for the game and earned tournament Most Valuable Player honors.
“It’s nice (to win MVP), but at the same time, it’s not a big thing for me,” Pugh said. “My goal is to win state.”
Pugh said he and his teammates were confident they had the best team in the area coming into the tournament, and winning goes a long way to proving that.
“We realize we can’t just come in here saying that,” Pugh said. “In order to make a statement, we had to win.”
Spencer was led by Tarvaraska Davis (18 points) and Deandre Hubbard (12 points) in the loss. Despite not coming out with a win, the tournament was a success overall for the Greenwave.
They began the tournament as the 8-seed (out of 12), but won games against Bullock County, Shaw and Harris County to advance to the finale.
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Tuesday at Carver
Central 12 10 14 25—61
Spencer 10 6 7 13—36
Devin Pugh 21, Rodgers 8, Lewis 7, Moore 6, Lampley 6, Jakes 5, Igus 4, Todd 3, Smith 1, Walters 1.
Tarvaraska Davis 18, Deandre Hubbard 12, Kio. Bush 4, Kim. Bush 2.