Things could have gotten away from Central in the second half of its overtime win against Spain Park on Thursday.
Instead of preparing for a state championship game on Saturday against McGill-Toolen, the Red Devils could have taken a long, lonely bus ride home from Birmingham.
Spain Park’s five-star Auburn commit, who is every bit as physically imposing in person as his 6-foot-10 listed height would suggest, had scored 12 points and grabbed nine rebounds in the first half as the Jaguars carried a one-point lead into the break.
Their other star, four-star guard Jamal Johnson, had just four points before halftime, but scored five in the third and eight in the opening minutes of the fourth.
It seemed that the writing was on the wall: Once Wiley began imposing his will inside down the stretch, the game was Spain Park’s to lose.
But that never happened.
Wiley scored just seven points in the second half and overtime combined, and four of those came in a 30 second span during the early minutes of the extra period.
Instead of taking over the game, Wiley was unable to figure out the tandem of Tionne Williams and Markail Benton.
The two defenders have the right kind of size to match up against that of Wiley. Williams is 6-foot-8, but plays even taller thanks to his wide wingspan. Benton, a football player by trade, played like a linebacker in the paint, placing his body on Wiley and preventing him from getting convenient entry passes.
When Wiley did catch the ball, he was often smothered.
“I just tried to be aggressive on him,” Williams said. “I didn’t want to let him put the ball on the floor and get you underneath the basket.”
Wiley went scoreless during a third period in which Central made its biggest gains. The Red Devils outscored Spain Park 18-9 in the period, opening an eight-point lead by the end of the quarter and extending it to 10 to open the fourth. And while Spain Park closed the gap and forced overtime, it was Williams and Benton again who made the final two blocks of the game on Wiley as time expired to preserve the win.
Williams finished with five blocks in the game.
As Central’s attention shifts to its next opponent, McGill-Toolen, so too will its approach on defense. Instead of facing a size disadvantage like it did on Thursday against Spain Park, Central will match up relatively well with McGill-Toolen.
The Yellow Jackets’ three leading scorers are point guard Rene Scott, forward T.J. Howard and shooting guard Paris Chambers. Scott is just 5-foot-7, three inches shorter than Central’s leading scorer Tre Todd, while Howard is 6-foot-5 and Chambers 6-foot-2.