Valley Preps

Halftime adjustments help Central turn area title game into blowout win over Auburn

Michael Niziolek

mniziolek@ledger-enquirer.com

The Central boys basketball team poses with the area championship trophy Saturday night. (Michael Niziolek | mniziolek@ledger-enquirer.com)
The Central boys basketball team poses with the area championship trophy Saturday night. (Michael Niziolek | mniziolek@ledger-enquirer.com)

Central used its time in the locker room at halftime wisely Saturday night.

Longtime coach Bobby Wright made a pair of defensive adjustments at the break with his team clinging to a 29-24 lead over Auburn in the Area 4-7A championship.

Wright had the Red Devils come out with a full-court press in the second half and a diamond defense in the half court to slow down Auburn's big man Garrison Brooks in the low post.

The changes turned a close game into a blowout as the Red Devils capped a 63-36 win by finishing the fourth quarter on a 14-0 run.

Auburn bookended the second half with scoring droughts of four plus minutes. Brooks, who led the Tigers with 11 points in the first half, didn't score after halftime.

"It's what we had to do," Wright said of the adjustments. "With the diamond we put the three guys down there in the post, but it really took four of them (to stop Brooks)."

Central guard Tre Todd took home the area MVP award with a game-high 27 points.

"Tre is one of our leaders and he has been nursing a bad ankle, this was probably the first time since he injured it that he had a really good game," Brooks said. "He was overdue."

Todd had quiet fourth quarter, but was a reliable offensive option for the Red Devils anytime they needed a basket. He finished the game with four 3-pointers and was 5 of 5 from the free throw line.

After the rivals traded the lead for much of the first half, Todd hit back-to-back 3-point shots late in

the second quarter to give his team a 24-20 advantage.

"It (the ankle) was still bothering me a little, but hopefully it will be 100 percent by the time we get Montgomery," Todd said. "I just had to take a few more shots from the outside rather than go inside."

Todd was happy to take a backseat late in the game as his teammates pushed the tempo thanks to a suffocating full court press.

"It was just energy," Todd said of the turnaround. "We came out flat, but we picked it up."

The wildest moment in the game came in the fourth quarter when Markail Benton scored on back-to-back layups.

Benton set up the second bucket by himself with a steal at midcourt. The 6-foot-2, 230-pound standout linebacker rumbled down the court like he was looking for the end zone.

Benton brought the home crowd to their feet by connecting on an under-handed layup pinned between two defenders.

Auburn lost to Central twice in the regular season, but looked like it had learned some lessons from the two losses early in the game. The Tigers managed to keep pace with Brooks and Jalen Alexander providing a nice one-two punch.

All of Brooks' field goals came from within a foot of the rim as he controlled the low post area.

Central's starting power forward Tionne Williams had to go to the bench in the second quarter after he picked up a second foul guarding Brooks.

Wright wasn't happy as he watched his team foul Brooks on three straight possessions in the quarter picking up a total of four fouls during the ugly stretch.

Guard DeMarcus Lampley gave Central some momentum going into halftime by hitting a pair of jumpers in the final minute of the quarter. He hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer to send the Red Devils into the break with a five-point lead.

Central advances to play the Area 3 runner-up Prattville at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday at Alabama State's Acadome in Montgomery.

"We play to win championships," Todd said. "It's time to go on to win a state ring."

Auburn 12 12 7 5 — 36

Central 12 17 14 20 — 63

Auburn (36)

Jalen Alexander 12, Garrison Brooks 11, Preston Cook 4, Christian Brandt 3, Maurice Randolph 2, Antoine Pitts 2, Kris Carter 2

Central (63)

Tre Todd 27, DeMarcus Lampley 11, Keiondre Jakes 6, Adrain Jackson 5, Jermond Williams 4, Quandarius Weaver 4, Markail Benton 4, Tionne Williams 2

Michael Niziolek covers Auburn football for the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer. Email him at mniziolek@ledger-enquirer.com or follow him on Twitter, Facebook or Google+

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