Central works its way through sluggish night to beat city rival Southwest

Matthew Brabham will have plenty of good memories of the Central gymnasium.

Not many of those memories will come from Friday night.

Brabham and the Chargers battled through a sluggish night to beat Southwest, 56-46, in one of the final games in the current Central gym, but one that could have just as well taken place in a summer league game in some sweaty, stuffy gym.

“This really wasn’t a pretty win,” said Brabham, who led all scorers with 24 points, “but it’s a region win and a win over a city rival. So we’ll take it.”

Central, which has one more regular season home game and a potential home state playoff game on the horizon, never trailed on Friday and actually stayed in control for most of the game.

The Chargers (14-7, 9-3 in Region 4-AA) held Southwest to four points in each of the first and second quarters to take a 23-8 halftime lead.

But while the lead and the defensive effort were impressive, Central’s offensive display wasn’t.

Southwest opened with a zone after playing the Chargers in a man-to-man defense earlier in the season. Central took some time to adjust to the defense, but eventually made the Patriots pay with three first-quarter 3-pointers.

“They did a good job by surprising us with their defense,” Brabham said. “We settled into it though and started to take smart shots.”

Central, however, never put Southwest away, and the Patriots started to chip away at the lead by attacking the basket and making their free throws.

Southwest, which finished 13-of-17 from the foul line, cut Central’s lead from 15 points to eight with an 11-4 run to close the third quarter.

“I think we just got too settled and stopped doing what we were doing well in the first half,” Central head coach Andre Taylor said. “I was very pleased with the way we played in the first half, but we slacked off in the third quarter.”

Central rebounded with a 6-1 run to open the fourth quarter to create some separation. Southwest continued to match Central offensively, but could never get any closer than six points.

The Central girls claimed a big win earlier in the night when they beat Southwest 54-51. The Chargers continued their best season in recent history with their second win over the Lady Patriots.

Hint Denson, who played strong all night, made a free throw with under a minute to play to give the Chargers a one-point lead and Curtisse Ewing’s layup with less than five seconds to play ensured the three-point win. It also elicited the loudest response all night from the near capacity crowd and sent Central head coach Sheila Toombs running on to the court to celebrate with Ewing.