Coaches often shy away from the “revenge game” label when their team faces an opponent that humbled them earlier in the season.
Not Central’s Bobby Wright. Not on Friday.
The Red Devils boys basketball team ran away from visiting Opelika 71-44 on Friday, avenging a 19-point loss to the Bulldogs on Jan. 3, its only loss of the season.
After the game, Wright acknowledged the importance of coming back with a good performance after playing poorly in their first meeting.
“It was,” Wright said when asked if it was a revenge game. “We totally got out of sync up there, got a little rattled and showed our inexperience. We teach our kids here to have tough skin and be mentally tough.”
That’s what he saw out of his players on Friday.
From the opening tip to the final buzzer, his players played with aggression on both sides of the court. It got open looks from outside and took the ball to the rim, blocked shots and forced poor looks on defense.
“I thought we played with a great deal of intensity,” Wright said. “A lot of passion. When we’re at home, this is our place. I challenged them to step up and win, and they did.”
Anthony Moore and Devin Pugh traded baskets early in the first and second quarters, setting a tone that they would follow for the majority of the game.
Moore led the way with 29 points, while Mark Rodgers added 16 and Pugh had 13.
By halftime the lead was already 18 points, a deficit that increased to 26, 60-34, by the end of the third and 30 near the end of the game.
“Pugh, Moor and Rodgers—we rely on them to lead the way and carry us,” Wright said. “They kind of put the team on their back.”
So did the defense. Wright said the team played man defense the entire game, something they don’t always do. He was comfortable, however, with his team’s intensity and never strayed from that plan.
Opelika had just one player in double figures, Jarvis Johnson, who finished with 10 points.
Central returns to action on Tuesday when it hosts Kendrick.
CENTRAL GIRLS 60, OPELIKA 55: The Lady Red Devils held on for a big region victory against Opelika on Friday, but the win may have come with an expensive price.
Jimecheia Banks, arguably the team’s top player, a senior who has already signed a scholarship to play with Winthrop, went to the floor when her knee buckled with just under two minutes to play in the game.
She had left her feet and was bumped by a defender just as her foot planted, fell to the court and screamed in agony as coaches and trainers looked at her for more than five minutes.
After the game, Central coach Carolyn Wright elaborated on the extent of the injury.
“They told me there was a lot of swelling,” she said. “They said that right now it doesn’t look good. We’ll be able to take a look at it and know more on Monday. We just hope and pray that she can get it fixed this season, and if not for this season, that she can get it ready for college.”
When Banks, who was the team’s leading scorer on Friday with 16 points, went down, the team was clinging to a seven-point lead. The rest of the players still had to gather themselves and finish off the victory.
Erin Hicks scored four of her nine points in the final minutes of the game and Keosha Glance had three of her six during the same period to preserve the victory.
Central will face Kendrick on Tuesday at home.
Friday at Central
Opelika 12 8 14 10—44
Central 18 20 22 11—71
Jarvis Johnson 10, Buggs 9, Kenneth 7, Tolbert 6, Fourtenbary 4, Roberts 3, Love 2, Vickerstaff 1.
Anthony Moore 29, Mark Rodgers 16, Devin Pugh 13, Todd 6, Lewis 5, Williams 2.
Records: Opelika, 11-5, 2-3; Central, 18-1, 4-1. Next: Opelika, Mon. vs. Hardaway at home; Central, Tues. vs. Kendrick at home.
Friday at Central
Opelika 17 12 11 15—55
Central 10 19 10 21—60
Jaylen Snipes 19, Adams 9, M. Frazier 9, A. Frazier 8, Courior 7, Bowman 2, Lockhart 1.
Jimecheia Banks 16, Hickson 9, Hicks 9, Spencer 8, Faniel 8, Glance 6, Vance 3, Ficklin 1.
Records: Central, 14-4, 3-2. Next: Central, Tues. vs. Kendrick at home.