The Auburn and Central girls basketball teams split a pair of close games during the regular season.
A tiebreaker in the AHSAA Area 4-7A championship game Friday night was far from the competitive matchup many expected with the Tigers taking control early thanks to a hot hand from the outside.
Central fell behind 26-8 early in the second quarter and couldn’t get the game within single digits the rest of the night. The Red Devils made a late push thanks to a late 12-2 run, but ultimately lost 73-57.
“We did some things that were uncharacteristic for us early in the game, lost their shooters, but I have to give Auburn girls credit they shot the ball well tonight,” Central coach Carolyn Wright said. “It’s the nature of the beast in this business. They were on tonight and our shots just weren’t falling.”
Auburn’s Dana Echols led all scorers with 22 points hitting five of her team’s nine 3-pointers. Echols bookended the third quarter with 3-point shots to keep her team’s lead over the 20-point mark. She was also fouled on a 3-point attempt during the quarter and connected on all three of her free throws.
Coach Terryland Dawson credited with Echols for providing a spark in the win, but pointed to her team’s balanced scoring — the Tigers had four players in double digits — as one of the keys to the game.
“We started hitting our shots early, had a lot of energy and that made them come out wider with the zone,” Dawson said. “We had Dana hitting, Nautika (Philpot) hitting and even my freshman Jada (Askew) hitting. I tell people that Dana is my rock, but she isn’t the only thing.”
Kayla Vance led Central in scoring with 17 points in the loss. Vance scored 15 points in the second half by dominating the offensive glass.
When Central made its run, an aggressive full court press and Vance’s inside presence helped the Red Devils cut the lead to 11 points twice.
“When you have to play catch-up ball like that it’s really hard,” Wright said.
Central had to finish the game without Faniel Lashunte, who injured her knee on the Red Devils’ first possession of the fourth quarter. Lashunte fell to the ground in obvious pain and had to be helped off the court by the team’s trainer. She watched the rest of the game from the bench with her left knee heavily wrapped with ice.
Central will play Area 3 champion Jeff Davis in the Central Regional at 1 p.m. Wednesday at Alabama State's Acadome.
Central 8 14 13 22 — 57
Auburn 20 20 18 15 — 73
Kayla Vance 17, Tajah Ellis 10, Teyah Johnson 8, Briana Hickey 7, Tiyah Johnson 7, Faniel Lashunte 4, Ashleign Gary, 4
Dana Echols 22, Alexus Williams 17, Nautika Philpot 13, Jada Askew 13, Sara Strohmeyer 6, Shaniya Holley 1, Raven Atkinson 1