Last Tuesday, senior guard Donald Jackson led Central to a victory which put the Red Devils one game away from the Class 7A state title game. In order to reach Saturday’s Championship, Jackson and his teammates have to stop the state’s top player.
Jackson’s 18 points and nine rebounds against Auburn in the Class 7A quarterfinals earned him Male Athlete of the Week honors. Jackson’s priority now will be helping slow down Mountain Brook’s Trendon Watford, a 6-foot-8 forward considered the No. 1 senior in Alabama and the No. 9 player in the country.
“As a leader and a senior, I felt like I just had to come out and be aggressive,” Jackson said after beating Auburn. “I’m trying to make it to Birmingham and win a state championship. I just felt like that was my job.”
Jackson’s aggressive nature worked against an Auburn team Central defeated three times in four meetings, but the Red Devils’ play at 2:30 p.m. EST in Birmingham’s Legacy Arena will have to be more by design this time around. Central coach Bobby Wright knows his side’s chances hinge a great deal on shutting down Watford, a task much easier said than done.
“We probably have to play the best defense we’ve played all year,” Wright said. “We have to come up with a plan to limit Watford’s touches on the ball. When he gets the ball in his hands, he’s deadly. He’s the No. 1 priority for us.”
Wright explained the problem with Watford is despite his size, he plays the game more like a guard than a forward. Watford’s ability to play on the outside means stopping him isn’t as easy as slowing down the typical big man on the court. His driving skills coupled with his height advantage means double teams will be a key piece to the Red Devils defense.
Central’s athleticism was one of the main reasons it dominated Auburn like it did in the quarterfinals, and Wright expects to implement that same style again. By having Jackson and the other Red Devils push the pace, there’s a chance Mountain Brook goes off script and gives Central a window to take another win.
“That’s what I’m looking at, trying to get out there, make them play our tempo and run,” Wright said. “I think if they run with us, we have a chance.”
Wright added Watford isn’t the only threat for Mountain Brook, saying Central has to pressure the team’s 3-point shooters consistently to have a chance. Even if Central slows down Watford, you can expect a shootout. Mountain Brook has four losses this year — all by five points or fewer.
Strategy aside, Jackson sees the Mountain Brook matchup as another chance for the Red Devils to prove themselves. The senior has seen his team reach Birmingham for the second time in three years, and he’s determined the group finish what they’ve started.
“We’ve got to just to keep playing together,” Jackson said. “Don’t give up and stay together.”