On Friday night, the Central High boys basketball team wasn’t going to be denied.
Despite facing a slew of off-the-court challenges leading up to their subregional playoff contest against Jeff Davis, the Red Devils beat the odds.
Senior Anthony Moore knocked down three free throws and made two key rebounds in the waning seconds of the game, sending Central home with a 62-58 victory.
With the win, Central advances to the round of 16, where it faces the winner of Spain Park and Thompson.
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Even before the game tipped off on Friday at home, Central faced a number of hurdles.
Bobby Wright, the team’s head coach, was absent from the sidelines. Instead of drawing up plays and leading his troops, Wright, who has more than 500 wins in his prestigious coaching career, was at home on bed rest after being admitted to the hospital with an undisclosed health concern on Wednesday.
In his place was assistant coach Carlton Jones.
“This was a tough, emotional win,” Jones said. “Our leader was down, and we wanted to come out on top for him. We got this win for him. Our seniors stepped up and made it happen.”
Senior leaders Devin Pugh and Anthony Moore led the way for the Red Devils, scoring 17 and 15 points, respectively. Three of Moore’s 15 came in the final 20 seconds, as he hit three big free throws to put the game out of reach.
With the game tied at 58-58 with 49 seconds to go, Moore, who didn’t play the first quarter, did what leaders do.
“Free throws have hurt us all year,” Jones said after the game. “They helped us tonight.”
Another challenge came in the form of a long delay before the game. Minutes before the game was set to start, officials announced the game would be delayed due to an incident with one of the game’s officials. A replacement third official was called in, causing the game to be pushed back a full hour.
The delay didn’t seem to faze the Red Devils at first, as they jumped out to an early lead. They were particularly strong on defense, blocking four shots in the first four minutes of the game. Central hit a wall midway through the first quarter, however, allowing Jeff Davis a 12-1 run to close the quarter with a 17-9 lead.
As quickly as they lost momentum in the first, however, the Red Devils regained it, scoring the first six points of the second quarter and completing an 12-4 run to tie the game at 21 apiece. The two teams traded baskets over the final four minutes of the quarter and went into the break tied at 32-32.
The teams matched each other blow for blow in the third with Central’s Tre Todd, Pugh and Moore trading points with Jeff Davis’ Jarrald Sanders, among others.
Central went ahead by as many as five points in the quarter at 45-40, but Jeff Davis immediately came back with a 5-0 run to tie the score at 45. Pugh knocked down a pair of free throws to give the Red Devils a two-point lead heading into the deciding quarter.
Todd also scored in double figures for Central, notching 11 points on the night. Jeff Davis was led by Shane Osborne’s 16, Sanders’ 14 and Desmond Daramus’ 10.
Central girls coach Carolyn Wright, wife of Bobby Wright, spoke about her husband’s condition earlier in the day. While she declined to give details of his health before getting more specifics from doctors, she did say they had ruled out a heart attack or stroke.
She noted that her husband was in good spirits and cheering on his team from home.
Friday at Central
Jeff Davis 17 15 13 13—58
Central 9 23 15 15—62
Jeff Davis (58)
Shane Osborne 16, Jarrald Sanders 14, Desmond Deramus 10, Garvin 7, Kelly 4, Barker 3, Wesley 2.
Devin Pugh 17, Anthony Moore 15, Tre Todd 11, Rogers 7, Lewis 4, Williams 2, Igus 2, Weaver 2, Ward 2.
Records: Central, 26-1; Jeff Davis, 19-8. Next: Central, vs. Spain Park/Thompson; Jeff Davis, season over.