Coming back, holding on
It didn't look good for the R-S Central Hilltoppers in the early going against Crest Tuesday night, but the somehow managed to outplay the Chargers in the second half and steal a 72-70 victory.
"This was a tough one but I'm proud of my guys tonihgt," head coach Greg Wright said after the win. "We were down early but we got that lead in the second and managed to hold on."
Each team came out of the opening tip running.
Central matched Crest’s athleticism but couldn’t quite match their size.
After Crest got their points down low, Jay Blanton and Rashaun Whitesides started turning in their points from all over the court.
The fast-paced first quarter ended in a gridlock, 16-16.
The Chargers continued to utilize their height advantage on fast breaks as they could just glide over the Hilltoppers to the basket.
After a few easy baskets, Crest led Central by six, 26-20.
Central finally started making a run in the second half of the second quarter, and thanks to five late points, the Hilltoppers went into halftime down just three points, 37-34.
"That was big for us," Wright said about the small halftime deficit. "There's a huge difference between going into the half down eight or just three."
The teams certainly came out of the half rested and ready to run.
Each team traded baskets as they sprinted up and down the floor.
Jaylen Hollis, the lone Hilltopper that could match the size and speed of the Chargers front line, led the charge for Central with four quick points and two blocks on the defensive end.
"When Jaylen is playing that hard he can be a very productive player," Wright said following the game. "When he understands his role it opens up a lot for us."
Blanton knotted the contest at 48-48 on a deep three from the left wing before Hollis grabbed the lead on a free throw.
Crest and Central traded one-point lead throughout the quarter but the Hilltopper held the 53-52 lead at the end of the third quarter.
Shawn Hines gave Central their biggest lead of the came just seconds into the fourth quarter with a deep three from the right wing to go up 56-52.
Jahari Miller extended the lead to 58-52 with a layup under the basket on the next Hilltopper possession.
Whitesides converted a huge three-point play to keep the Hilltoppers up five with 4:40 left in the contest, 65-60.
With 2:45 left, Crest regained a one-point lead after an 8-2 run.
Down 70-69, the Hilltoppers milked over a minute off the clock but couldn’t turn it into points and turned the ball over.
Fortunately for Central, Crest couldn’t take advantage as Jordan Hamilton pulled down a loose ball and drew a foul to head to the line with 37 seconds remaining.
Hamilton drained both free throws and Central claimed a slim, 71-70 lead.
With 16 seconds left, Hamilton was back on the line. He missed them both.
Crest rebounded, ran down the floor, missed an easy bucket and Whitesides came down with the ball.
After being fouled, Whitesides hit his second free throw and intercepted the inbounded ball to seal the 72-70 victory.
"[Whitesides] played an incredible game," Wright said. "He got hurt in the first half but toughed through it and made some huge plays for us at the end of the game."
Whitesides finished with 22 points and 10 boards while Blanton also had a double-double with 12 points and 10 assists.
Hamilton added 15 points and eight rebounds. Hollis poured in 12 points of his own.
Central is set to host Kings mountain tonight at 7:30 p.m.