The Central boys basketball team needed its big man Tionne Williams at crunch time Wednesday night to get past Prattville in the Class 7A Central regional final.
Williams finished the fourth quarter with eight of his 15 points to help Central secure a 65-51 win. He also had five rebounds and a game-high five blocks.
“Without Tionne we wouldn’t be where we are, let’s face that, that’s just telling you the truth,” Central coach Bobby Wright said. “He’s pretty much our backbone in terms of rebounding. He’s a game changer cause he block shots and a lot of those shots we get them for fast break transition baskets.”
Williams, who spent most of the area championship on the bench in foul trouble, found himself in the same spot less than two minutes into the third quarter at the Dunn-Oliver Acadome when he picked up his third foul going for an offensive rebound.
“I thought he was playing a little out of control,” Wright said.
The Red Devils’ center went to the bench at the first stoppage of play and stayed there until the fourth quarter with the teams separated by four points.
On his first possession back in the game, he had a rebound to extend a possession and finished the sequence off with a putback dunk. Williams pushed his team’s lead to eight points with a second dunk of the quarter off an outlet pass.
“I thought my team could still pull it through,” Williams said. “I just wanted to try to stay aggressive.”
Wright was pleased with the poise his team showed as Prattville erased an early 11-point deficit to take its first lead of the game with 5:22 to go in the third quarter.
Chance Dicus hit a 3-pointer from NBA range to put his team up 37-34.
The back-and-forth third quarter featured four lead changes, but ended with Central up 44-40 thanks to a pair of 3-pointers from Jermond Williams in the final 90 seconds. Williams finished the game with a team-high 17 points and was 4 of 6 from 3-point range.
“We are a veteran ball club,” Wright said. “We are road tested and battle tested. We aren’t going to get upset when we get behind a little bit because coming to the regional tournament is nothing new for Central. My kids just try to be tough skinned.”
Central jumped out to a hot start hitting three of its first four shots on a 6-0 run. Tre Todd hit a fast break layup off a steal at midcourt forcing Prattville to call a timeout less than two minutes into the game.
The guard picked up where he left off with 27 points in the area championship knocking down back-to-back 3-point shots to give the Red Devils an early 13-2 advantage.
As a team, Central shot better than 61 percent from the field in the first quarter, but couldn’t keep the pace up.
Prattville steadily chipped into the Red Devils’ lead in the second quarter. Forward Jordan Park’s putback before the buzzer made it 34-33 going into halftime.
Park and fellow forward Azariah Seay accounted for most of their team’s offensive in the quarter.
Seay showed his quickness off the dribble with three nearly identical drives to the basket from the top of the key. Seay was fouled by Tionne Williams on the last one and completed the 3-point play to give him 12 points at the break.
Central, 30-1, advances to play R.E. Lee at 5:45 p.m. on Tuesday. A berth in the final four will be at stake.
Prattville 13 20 7 11 — 51
Central 21 13 10 21— 65
Azariah Seay 14, Jordan Park 12, Ricky Shuford 11, Chance Dicus 9, Derek Gappa 3, Carlos Coleman 2
Jermond Williams 17, Tionne Williams 15, Tre Todd 14, Quandarius Weaver 6, Markail Benton 6, Demarkus Lampley 5, Keiondre Jakes 2