The script has become familiar for Central head coach Andre Taylor in recent games.
An opponent stays close for a half, maybe three quarters, just enough to get things worked up a bit. But then the Chargers kick things up a notch in the latter stages of the game and wind up on the winning end of things.
That’s how things played out in Thursday’s GHSA Region 4-3A semifinal. A young but improving Peach County team kept Central close for more than a half despite having one of its top players in foul trouble, but the host Chargers overwhelmed the Trojans in the late going to pull away for an 87-56 victory.
“We did pretty much what we’ve been doing all year, playing in spurts,” Taylor said. “They picked it up in the fourth period, and we’ve done that pretty much the last four or five games. We started better (Thursday). As long as we can finish, we’ll be OK.”
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Central outscored Peach County 25-6 in the fourth quarter to earn a spot in Friday’s 8:30 p.m. region title game, hosting crosstown rival Westside, an 80-64 winner over Kendrick. Central and Westside split their regular-season series, with each team winning on the other’s home floor.
While Central (19-6) led from about the five-minute mark on, Peach County (7-19) kept the Chargers from completely pulling away in the second and third quarters by making some 3-pointers and, in the third quarter, putting on some effective full-court defense.
Jared Johnson, Brice Paster and Cody Dunn combined to make five 3-pointers in the second and third quarters, keeping Central’s lead in the vicinity of 10 points. The Trojans also forced six Central turnovers in the third, with four coming on steals.
Paster, who made the game-winning 3-pointer at the buzzer in Tuesday’s quarterfinal victory against Rutland, was expected to play a big role again against Central. But two fouls within the first two minutes affected his availability the rest of the game. His third foul came midway through the second quarter, and he played the final 10:55 with four fouls.
While cranking up defensive pressure helped Peach County out for awhile, Central’s depth finally took over in the fourth. Johnson’s 3-pointer with 7:07 to go was Peach County’s final field goal, and the Chargers closed the game with a 25-1 run.
“We started out kind of slow at the beginning, but we picked it up toward the end,” said Central’s Antarius McCoy, who had 22 points and 13 rebounds in the win. “(Peach County) picked it up the second part of the season. They picked up another player, and they played us tough the second game (a 69-66 Central win Jan. 13).
“We got two good wins back-to-back. We have to get ready for (the final).”
Five players finished in double-figures for Central. Tyrice Paul and Dewan Owens each had 15 points, while Kylan Hill scored 13 and Justus Williams came off the bench with 10 points.
Johnson led Peach County with 24 points, while Dunn added 11. Paster was held to five.
Westside boys 80, Kendrick 64
Westside also needed all four quarters to put away its opponent, with Kendrick leading briefly in the third quarter following a technical foul called on the Seminoles.
The Seminoles regrouped following the technical, regaining the lead and building it to 10 points by the end of the third.
Trey Foster led Westside with 24 points, while Khavon Moore was held to 14 points. Samone Reed and Terric Allen had 13 and 12 points, respectively.
Tyler Brooks scored 31 for Kendrick.
Central girls 44, Westside 32
Jada Clowers had 19 points and 17 rebounds as the Chargers claimed a region championship game berth for the first time in head coach Sheila Toombs’ tenure at Central.
Central (18-5) outscored Westside 14-7 in the third quarter to build on a four-point halftime lead.
The Chargers’ JeNya Wilder added 10 points. NiAria Dawson paced Westside (14-11) with 13 points.
Peach County girls 58, Kendrick 42
Peach County returns to the region championship game following a dominating performance against Kendrick.
The Trojans (21-3) outscored the Cherokees (12-15) by 12 in the second quarter, with Deja Holland scoring 11 of her team-high 16 points during that stretch.
Eboni Steele scored 13 points and Daishai Almond added 11 for Peach County.
Kiara Price scored 17 points for Kendrick, with Itavia Montgomery adding 12.