Sheila Toombs knew the construction project in front of her when she arrived at Central in 2007.
Despite the rich girls basketball history throughout Bibb County, Central was the one program no one mentioned in those conversations about that history. Northeast has won multiple state championships. Southwest, Rutland and Westside have all played in Final Fours. Southeast won region championships.
Central won 16 games in the first eight years of this decade.
But while she hasn’t built a mansion, Toombs showed just how much progress has been made in her three seasons.
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Central will make its first playoff appearance in its 39-year history after the Lady Chargers beat Greene County 36-32 in the quarterfinals of the GHSA Region 4-AA tournament Tuesday at Northeast.
“There was no history here,” Toombs said. “We came in and tried to build on each minute, quarter, game, week and year. This is a big day for our program.”
The Lady Chargers (8-14) didn’t look like they would be making that playoff appearance after a dreadful start Tuesday.
Central shot 1-of-14 from the field in the first quarter as Greene County sprinted out to a 15-3 lead. It took the Lady Chargers nearly four minutes to score their first points.
“I think they just came out really nervous,” Toombs said. “It was a situation they haven’t been in, and I think they were nervous. They were standing around star struck. They were so excited, but I don’t think they knew how to translate that to the court. I just told them to let it go and put it behind them. It was just one quarter.”
The Lady Chargers scored to open the second quarter, and they found a way to sustain that momentum throughout the entire quarter. Their energy started on the defensive end, where they blocked eight shots in the quarter. They also held Greene County scoreless for more than 10 minutes between the second and third quarters.
“They just believed and starting believing in each other and played great defense,” Toombs said.
Central slowly chipped away at the lead to pull within two points with 1:56 to play in the half.
The Chargers took their first lead of the game on a basket by Chaunice Smith with 2:32 to play in the third quarter. Neither team led by more than two points until a basket by Demetrius Freeman with 3:09 to play in the game put the Chargers up by four points.
The Chargers never trailed after that basket and eventually clinched the game on a pair of free throws by Tascianna Taylor with 16 seconds to play in the game.
“It’s a dream come true,” Taylor said. “This is what we wanted, and we worked hard for it.”
Central will play the Northeast-Howard winner on Friday in the region semifinals. The winner of the semifinals matchup will host a state playoff game.