Newton's third law of motion states that every action has an equal and opposite reaction. On Monday, Central High proved that can be applicable to basketball as well.
After an impressive run pulled visiting Smiths Station within three points early in the second quarter of the Class 6A, Area 5 tournament championship, the Red Devils responded as champions do — with a run of their own — to take control of the game and roll to a 63-52 win.
With the win, Central will host the opening round of the state playoffs on Friday against Jeff Davis, which lost 70-53 to Carver-Montgomery on Monday. Smiths Station will travel to Carver for its first game.
“We have to continue to play good defense now,” Central coach Bobby Wright said of its next game. “That’s what we preach. We know we can score points.”
Monday’s contest was an emotional affair filled with fast breaks, big shots and loud fans. The end of the second quarter and first half of the third turned into a figurative scrum with Central the team emerging unscathed.
After falling behind by 16 points late in the first half, the Panthers got crucial baskets from Jahlil Keys and DeVante Marshall. The latter was a three-pointer from the corner on which Marshall was bumped and fell to the ground. The ball sailed through the net, Marshall added the freebie and the lead was narrowed to 10 going into the break.
Out of the intermission, Smiths Station got a free throw and a two-point basket before Marshall, again, served up a three-pointer and got fouled. He completed the four-point play again to round out a 13-0 run the cut Central’s lead to 32-29 with six minutes, 52 seconds to play in the third.
“(Mike) Hardin is a big physical guy inside,” Wright said. “He just kind of manhandled my bigs. We tried to double him up, but it left (Marshall) open to hit a couple threes.”
With its speed an advantage, though, Central began to spread the floor and convert opportunities on fast breaks. In five short minutes, a 32-29 lead was back to 49-35, with Anthony Moore scoring eight of his 17 points during a 17-6 run.
Smiths Station never again got within 11 points of the Red Devils.
“They finished,” Smiths Station coach Stephen Davis said of Central. “They started finishing their layups in the third. That’s what they’re good at.”
Central’s Devin Pugh, who scored 21 points in the game and was named tournament most valuable player, said his team just increased its intensity.
“We had to match their intensity,” he said. “Once we matched it, we had to take it to another level.”
Central would extend its lead back to 16 over the final minutes and finished with the 11-point victory.
In the loss, Marshall led the Panthers with 16 points. Hardin, limited with fouls, finished with seven. Both Hardin and Marshall, along with Jahlil Keys, finished the game on the bench after picking up five fouls.
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Monday at Central
Smiths Station 13 9 14 16—52
Central 17 15 18 13—63
Smiths Station (52)
DeVante Marshall 16, Jackson 9, Heath 8, Hardin 7, Porter 6, Keys 4, Brooks 2.
Devin Pugh 21, Anthony Moore 17, Rogers 8, Williams 6, Todd 4, Ward 4, Lewis 2.
Records: Smiths Station, 17-12, Central, 25-1. Next: Smiths Station, Fri. at Carver-Montgomery; Central, Fri. vs. Jeff Davis at home.