For about 35 minutes, the Northside boys basketball team gave Central High all it could handle, and then some.
Then, Central did what Central does, and all the rest was history.
Devin Pugh made three free throws with 24 seconds left in regulation to force overtime and sophomore Tre Todd scored seven points in the final 1:21 to give the Red Devils (15-1) a 75-66 win on the road.
The win was Central’s third over the Patriots this season and gave it two wins in a row after dropping a game to Opelika, its only loss so far this season.
“I thought we grew up a little bit,” Central coach Bobby Wright said after the game. “We’ve got to know how to play in close games. Games like this build character.”
Despite building a 10-point lead in the first half, Central lost control of the game late in the third quarter. Helped by eight points in the quarter from Phillip Whittington, Northside (7-7) chipped away at a six-point halftime deficit, eventually taking the lead and going into the fourth up 42-38. That lead grew to five, 50-45, on a three-pointer from Matthew Richardson, but the Red Devils wouldn’t go away.
Trailing 58-55 with 24 seconds remaining, Pugh was fouled on a shot behind the arc. He hit all three foul shots and Northside missed a jumper at the buzzer to send the game to overtime.
The Patriots played most of the overtime period with three key contributors on the bench. Richardson (14 points), Jelani McGlan (8 points) and Whittington (16 points) all fouled out in the game.
Sensing the presence of youth on the court for the opposition, Wright elected to utilize a full-court press down the stretch, creating three turnovers and leading to a 13-0 run in the final 1:37.
“Their kids got into foul trouble, so we opened up the press,” Wright said. “I knew it was kind of rolling the dice, but I’m aggressive by nature. I don’t like to wait for something to happen, I like to make something happen.”
Pugh led the Red Devils with 18 points in the game, hitting three three-pointers in the first quarter. Todd followed with 14, and Anthony Moore notched 12.
In addition to Whittington and Richardson, Davion Thomas scored 16 points for Northside.
Patriots coach Kenny Lawrence said he was happy with the team’s performance even though it ran out of gas and into foul trouble late.
“The first half, we didn’t play real smart ball, but the second half was good,” he said. “We just got into some foul trouble late and had to go to some guys who hadn’t played all year. That’s a tough situation for those guys to come into.”
Northside returns to action against Thomas County Central to open region action on Friday at home. Central plays at Smiths Station on Friday.
Tuesday at Northside
Central 19 14 5 20 17—75
Northside 10 17 15 16 8—66
Devin Pugh 18, Tre Todd 14, Anthony Moore 12, Williams 9, Rodgers 8, Lewis 7, Igus 7.
Davion Thomas 16, Phillip Whittington 16, Matthew Richardson 14, Dalandis Hopkins 10, McGlan 8, Baker 2.
Record: Central, 15-1; Northside, 7-7. Next: Central, Friday at Smiths Station; Northside, Friday vs. Thomas County Central at home.