Kevin Grooms is like any other coach.
He likes to win.
But Saturday’s non-region matchup against Central meant just a little bit more.
Grooms spent the past two years as a Central assistant before landing as the head coach at Northeast, and he already had lost once to Central. It looked like the second one hurt him even a little bit more.
The Chargers overcame 36 turnovers to hold on at the end to take a 57-54 win over Northeast, Senior Christian Smith scored 13 points to lead the way as Central improved to 6-5.
“We wanted this win bad,” said Smith, who scored eight of Central’s 10 third-quarter points. “It’s been a few years since we have swept Northeast, so it’s a great feeling. We were a little down after Tuesday night and losing to Veterans, but we got two big wins this weekend. It’s all about getting back on the right track, and I think we accomplished that.”
Central led for almost the entire way. The biggest lead the Chargers had came in the second quarter when a Kavizea Oliver basket gave them a 21-11 lead. That was followed, however, by a 10-4 Northeast run to make it a four-point Central lead at halftime.
James Hurst led the way for the Raiders with eight first-half points.
After a relatively quiet third quarter that saw Central add one point to its lead, things heated up. Central upped its lead to eight at 46-38 on two Oliver free throws, but Northeast outscored the Chargers 12-2 during the next three minutes. When Teonte Bond made two free throws with 3:23 to play, the Raiders had their first lead at 50-48.
They held the lead for a little more than two minutes, the last being at 54-52, but the Chargers’ defense, which forced 33 turnovers of its own, was too much down the stretch. Joshua Evins’ two free throws with 1:39 left gave Central a 55-54 lead, which was just enough.
“I don’t know what to say about it,” said Central head coach Andre Taylor. “This is our biggest rivalry game, and both teams played very hard. We had just played a close game (Friday) night, and I was hoping we would have enough to finish this game, because I know what it means to the kids and to the fans. We lost the lead but played great defensive basketball over the last few minutes.”
Grooms’ team dropped to 6-7. Jerry Butler led Northeast with 17 points and 12 rebounds, while Hurst added 16.
“The kids wanted to win this one for me,” Grooms said. “That makes it even more difficult. The plan was to turn up the defense in the fourth quarter, because we did not think they could handle our pressure defense, and they couldn’t. We had our chances to win the game. Now it’s time to get over this loss and get ready for the region schedule. We know we are on the right track, and our region is wide open. We are just ready to get going.”
The girls game saw Northeast claim a 41-32 decision. The Raiderettes led 27-14 at the half and then survived a tough day at the free-throw line to beat Central for the second time this year. Northeast made only 3-of-16 from the line. Jerryshia Williams scored 16 for the Northeast, while Taylor Reese led Central with 10