Minus its top post player, the Central boys basketball team faced a bit of a matchup disadvantage Wednesday against Savannah.
With 6-foot-10 center Kentrevious Jones sidelined with a leg injury, Central did not have a single starter taller than 6-2 for its first-round GHSA Class AAA home playoff matchup. Despite having to play against a taller Savannah lineup, however, the Chargers found a way to advance, pulling away in the final four minutes for a 59-53 victory.
“We’re a fourth-quarter team,” said Central’s Antarius McCoy, who led all scorers with 26 points. “We had to come out with our heads up and (with) some intensity.”
Up next for Central (20-7) is a second-round contest against the winner of Thursday’s Lumpkin County-Morgan County game.
With Savannah (19-11) starting three players 6-4 or taller, the Blue Jackets were expected to take control of the boards. They did just that, outrebounding Central 26-16 in the second half and 36-32 for the game.
Still, with the transition game producing some high-percentage shot opportunities, Central came out with the win.
“We’ve been able to run the floor, but we’ve been bad rebounding lately, not boxing out, and that almost cost us the game, not keeping them off the boards,” Central head coach Andre Taylor said. “We gave them so many second and third chances. But we did pick it up, and we did run the floor well in transition.”
Although Savannah had a big rebounding edge in the second half, it struggled to convert. While the Blue Jackets were getting plenty of putback attempts, they wound up hitting just 12-of-38 (31.6 percent) from the field.
Foul trouble played a role in Savannah’s struggles from the field. Zion Williams, who led Savannah with 14 points, picked up his fourth foul with 3:43 to go in the third. While he saw significant action in the fourth quarter, he failed to make a field goal in the second half after making three 3-pointers in the first.
Central, meanwhile, was more judicious with its shot selection. The Chargers hit half of the 20 shots they attempted in the second half, including a 7-of-8 showing in the final quarter, along with putting forth a 14-of-18 effort (77.8 percent) from the line.
On a couple of occasions in the fourth quarter, Central picked up some points off Savannah timeouts, scoring quickly on set plays.
“I give it pretty much to my point guard (Derrick Evans),” Taylor said. “Unless I see something on the floor, then I make that call. Other than that, I put it in his hands.”
Things clicked best for Central in the game’s latter stages. A Maurice Brown basket and a 3-point play by Evans gave Central a nine-point lead with 2:48 to go, and the Chargers eventually went up by 12 before back-to-back 3-pointers by Savannah reserve Johnny Taylor in the final 30 seconds made things interesting.
Taylor’s second 3-pointer, with 18 seconds remaining, cut Central’s lead to 56-50. But Savannah called a timeout it didn’t have, and the technical foul and ensuing McCoy free throws dashed Savannah’s hopes of advancing to the second round.