Coach Darius Smiley thought there was much to be desired from his squad following the opening 16 minutes — with Central clinging to a 23-20 edge going into the locker room — and the first-year Lion head man quickly got things straightened out.
“In the first half, we didn’t look good at all. We didn’t play with much effort in that first half. But I challenged the guys during halftime to come back and play with effort. Part of defense is playing with effort. And we’ve got some guards that when they make it up in their mind that they want to play defense, they can play pretty good defense. And that’s what they did,” Smiley said.
Central held the Braves (0-3) to just five second-half field goals and 23 points overall, forcing 18 turnovers in the second half and 34 for the game.
First-year Heard County coach Philip Manning said it’s been a difficult stretch to open the year with the combination of a young team and not having much practice time between football and basketball season exposing some things in the early goings to the 2012-13 campaign. Junior guard Deron Swint was the only scorer to reach double figures for Heard with 15 points.
“It’s coming slowly, to be honest with you. By the time we got everybody into [practice], we had to start playing games. So it’s still a little bit rough, and you can tell by looking at it. We’ve still got some young guys that are going to have to step up,” Manning said. “Defensively, I thought we came out with a great effort, but the same story and it’s starting to get old. We’ve got to step up and make some plays. We were right there in the game until halftime. I thought we were going to be in the ball game, and then we score [seven] points in the third quarter. That’s just unacceptable. We’ll have to get back to the drawing board and see what we can figure out.”
Central scored the first nine points of the second half and never looked back, getting a double-double effort from senior forward Justis Ward, who led all scorers with 19 points to go along with 13 rebounds. Junior forward James Cochran scored 10 points off the bench, while senior guard Shaq Allen added nine points and five boards and senior guard Kahlil Wynn posted eight points with five rebounds.
Smiley said his offense is still a work-in-progress, as well, early in the year.
“Heard County, the first time we played them, they hurt us with their zone. They played us in a 2-3 zone, and that kind of hurt us. But we worked on it all day [Monday]. We were working the ball and making sure we were getting the ball in middle. And once we did, Justis did a good job of making some things happen for us. That kind of allowed us to get going,” Smiley said. “But early in the season, we’re not where we want to be.”
Central girls 65, Heard County 61: In a back-and-forth battle that never saw the lead extend beyond seven points for either team all night, the Lady Lions (2-2) secured their second win in as many tries against the Lady Braves (1-2) early in the year.
Heard County built its biggest lead of the night on a Jemeka Parks 3-pointer to make it an 18-13 contest at the start of the second quarter, but the Lady Lions answered with an 11-1 run to flip the five-point advantage their way. Heard countered just before the half with back-to-back treys from Jasmine Cook and Shemeka Parks to knot the game up at 31-all at the break.
In the second half, neither team was able to take control of the game until Central used a 9-0 run early in the fourth quarter to go up 57-50 — marking the biggest lead of the night — and was able to hang on for the four-point win.
Lady Lion coach Jimmy LeBlanc said his team endured its share of troubles breaking the Heard County full-court pressure led by its trio of veteran guards in Cook and the Parks twins.
“Their guard play is so strong and they’re just savvy. They read and react to your shoulders, as far as the passes and that kind of stuff. They just turned us over way too much,” said LeBlanc, whose ball club committed 27 turnovers on the night. “I felt like we had a couple of opportunities to take control of the game — right there before the half, where we’re up six. Even after turning the ball over as much as we did early in the half, we give up those uncontested 3s right there. But it’s all about growing. So overall, that’s a quality win against a quality team.”
Heard County coach Valeree Williams is also dealing with some youth. Beyond her starting five, there is nothing but green players coming off the bench.
Williams said while her press was effective, she wasn’t able to use it as much as she wanted due to the inexperience when her starters aren’t on the floor.
“They did exactly what they were supposed to do. I don’t have guards that are at that speed and know what they’re doing yet [off the bench]. They’re freshmen, so it’s hard to continue to press like that with all those freshmen. They’re going to make some freshmen mistakes. We can only do so much, because that’s all the legs we have right now,” Williams said.
Central was led by junior forward Sherae Bonner, who posted a double-double with 23 points and 12 rebounds, while Jasmine Thrash added 14 points off the bench, Hayley Sims finished with 12 points and Brianna Cousins also hit double-double numbers with 10 points and 10 boards.
Heard County was led by Jemeka Parks’ 22-point effort, while Shemeka Parks (17 points, 11 rebounds) and Cook (12 points, 10 rebounds) both finished with double-doubles.