Birmingham Three players were seated beside Central coach Bobby Wright at the post-game press conference after the team lost to McGill-Toolen in the Class 7A championship game.
The arrangement was appropriate. Wright sat in the center, with senior leader Tre Todd on his left. Todd has been the team’s top player all season and a constant contributor for the past three years. He was the leading scorer and nearly did enough to help his team earn its first ever championship ring.
On Wright’s other side were Keiondre Jakes and Demarkus Lampley, both juniors and the immediate future of the Red Devils program. If recent weeks are any indication, that future still looks bright.
Lampley led all scorers with 23 points on Saturday despite his team’s loss. He scored eight points in the third quarter as Central climbed to within four points of the Yellow Jackets going into the fourth.
On one series of plays, he knocked down a three-pointer and drew a foul to complete a four-point play then followed that with a three-pointer over a defender’s outstretched hand one possession later.
Jakes picked a Yellow Jackets’ pocket and scored all alone on a fast break seconds later to cut the deficit to 41-40 for Central. Jakes finished with 14 points in the game.
“He has a no-quite attitude,” Wright said of Lampley. “And Keiondre Jakes, he has a high motor. He’s always moving and running. At one point there at the end, I just took all the bigs out and let those kids play because they just play with so much heart. Keiondre and Lampley, they’re guys that you can build a program around. Hopefully, they’ll learn from this experience and they’ll become better leaders as seniors.”
They’ll be leading a group that includes Adrian Jackson and Justyn Ross, who will each be juniors next season. Jackson began picking up minutes later in the season because of his defense, and Ross will return to the court after he finishes recovering from a knee injury. Both showed strong abilities that, when mixed with Lampley and Jakes, could make for another strong group.
For Jakes’ and Lampley’s part, they’re already looking ahead.
“Just going to have to get back in the gym,” Jakes said on Saturday after the game.
“Me and Keiondre been in the gym all summer,” Lampley said. “Next year, we’re trying to make it here again. … We’re going to be in (the gym) next week. As soon as we go back to school, me and my boy are going to be in there. Working.”