The Lions struggled throughout their 72-53 setback to South Paulding, where shots weren’t falling, calls didn’t necessarily go their way early and it all ultimately snowballed into a double-digit setback at the hands of the Spartans (10-1), who advance into tonight’s 8:30 championship game against Bremen. The Lions (4-5) will square off against tourney host Haralson County in the third-place game at 5:30 p.m.
“It seems like in all of our losses we have this one stretch where it’s three minutes or four minutes and we kind of fall apart — whether it be offensively or defensively,” Smiley said. “We’ve just got to find a way to play 32 minutes consistently. We’ve got one more game to do that before we get into our region play.”
South Paulding built a 15-10 lead after the opening eight minutes and stretched that to a 36-25 advantage going into the locker room, as the Spartans shot 22 free throws in the first half, though they connected on just 11 of them.
The Spartans were able to distance themselves in the third quarter, outscoring Central, 23-14, to take a 20-point advantage into the final eight minutes, where the Lions got no closer than 16 points the rest of the night.
Central senior forward Justis Ward posted a double-double with 13 points and 13 rebounds, while Shaq Allen added 12 points and Blake Reese finished with 11 points. Sophomore forward Artavius Love led all scorers with 21 points for the Spartans.
Central will get an early taste of what the Region 4-AAA schedule will look like today in facing the Rebels (1-8), and Smiley said his ball club needs to play a cleaner game if it wants to bounce back with a ‘W.’
Defensive transition was one of the issues for the Lions on Friday night, especially in the second half when the Spartans were able to break loose for some easy buckets.
“We did a poor job of getting back in transition and a good South Paulding team is going to take advantage of that. They’ve got guys that can run the floor, and that’s what they did,” Smiley said. “We’ve just got to come back [today] and try to get one.”