The fourth-seeded Central girls basketball team trailed for more than three quarters Wednesday but was able to turn up the pressure late and pull out a 54-50 victory over fifth-seeded Westside to advance in the GHSA Region 2-AAA tournament and claim a spot in the Class AAA playoffs.
“It was just character,” Central head coach Sheila Toombs said. “They never gave up. My senior (Alexis Rutherford) kept us in there and kept it tight.”
Central swept two games from Westside in the regular season, but the Seminoles came out determined Wednesday.
Jamesia Holliman and Niaira Dawson knocked down a pair of 3-pointers in the game’s opening minute for a quick 6-0 lead. After another unanswered field goal, Toombs was forced to take a timeout to regroup.
“I think mentally we weren’t in it,” Toombs said. “I told them in the pregame that this was another season, and they were going to come out like nothing. I thought we came out flat. We weren’t playing any defense, and we were standing around looking. We’ve got to be aggressive.”
Central chipped away at the lead for the remainder of the half and went to the break down just three at 24-21.
The Chargers trailed by four entering the final quarter when Holliman appeared to turn her ankle and was forced to the bench. When she returned, Westside’s point guard was clearly limited, and the Seminoles struggled to take care of the basketball as the Chargers kept narrowing the advantage.
“We put a little bit more pressure on her because she couldn’t make a turn or anything like that,” Toombs said. “I went to my freshmen with those young legs with the pressure, and I think they turned it over about three or four times. I didn’t look at the score, but when I looked up it was 44-43, and I knew we had a chance.”
Central took its first lead of the contest at 46-44 with 2:55 remaining on a field goal from Breanna Ivey.
The Chargers sealed the victory with a steal by freshman Tyleia Williams, who raced to the other end and drew an intentional foul. She knocked down a pair of free throws, and Adora Chatfield also converted a pair from the line to extend Central’s lead to six with less than 20 seconds remaining.
PEACH COUNTY (BOYS) 73, JORDAN 56
The Trojans fell behind by 10 points early but were able to take a halftime lead and blow the game open in the final quarter.
Junior Jaylan Johnson scored 28 points in the Peach County (21-5) victory.
Jordan’s season ends at 9-16.
WESTSIDE (BOYS) 56, SOUTHWEST 53
Fifth-seeded Westside (14-12) turned its attention inside after a slow start and earned a tightly contested victory over fourth-seeded Southwest.
The teams split the regular-season series. Westside will play top-seeded Rutland in the semifinals Thursday.
Southwest’s season comes to an end at 10-14.
RUTLAND (GIRLS) 54, SOUTHWEST 30
The two teams combined for just eight points at the end of the first quarter and Southwest led 16-13 at the half, but it was all Rutland after the break.
The Hurricanes (14-9) beat Southwest for the third time this season and advance to the state playoffs.
Southwest finishes the season at 9-11.