R-S Central keeps it close with Freedom but falls short
The R-S Central Hilltoppers (8-7; 1-2 SMAC) came into Freedom (13-2; 2-1 SMAC) ready to prove themselves as one of the top teams in the SMAC conference but left with just a moral victory after falling to the Patriots 79-71.
“This team makes you play a faster style than you want to play and we weren’t able to simulate this week,” said Central head coach Greg Wright. “We hung with them but we just wore down.”
Freedom opened the game on a 7-0 tear to force Central into a timeout with 5:54 left in the first quarter.
Desmond Whitesides finally put the Hilltoppers on the board with a runner in the lane to make the score 7-2 with 4:55 left in the first.
Central cut the lead to as little as three at 11-8 but Freedom answered right back and the quarter ended with the Patriots on top 16-11.
Freedom started the second quarter with another 7-0 run to balloon their lead to 12 just 90 seconds into the quarter.
Turnovers started to doom the Patriots as the Hilltoppers mounted a run.
Points off the bench from Norman Aiken and Jahari Miller coupled with a deep 3 from Jordan Hamilton pulled the Hilltoppers to within four at 29-25 with just over two minutes left in the half.
Rashaun Whitesides muscled down an offensive rebound on the next Central possession and layed it in to cut the lead to just 29-27 with 1:20 left in the first half of play.
The half ended with Freedom up 33-29.
Central came out of the break and rallied for their first lead of the game at 39-37 with 5:05 left in the third quarter.
The lead was short-lived as Freedom answered with a three-point play to put them back up two.
Freedom ended the third on a 12-7 run to head into the fourth with a 52-46 advantage.
It wasn’t long before Freedom jumped back ahead double-digits as they forced Central into a timeout after stretching their lead to 59-48 with 6:09 left in the game.
3-pointers from Jay Blanton and Rashaun Whitesides kept Central within striking distance but Freedom continued to turn possessions into points.
Consecutive 3’s from Hamilton and Aiken put Central within at 71-66 with 1:44 left.
Freedom maintained control and rode out the final 2 minutes for the 79–71 win.
Rashuan Whitesides led Central with 22 points and nine rebounds while Hamilton netted 18 points and nine rebounds. Blanton narrowly missed a double-double with 11 points and eight boards.
“We just can’t get complacent and content with hanging with teams like this and East Rutherford. We want to establish ourselves as one of the better teams in the conference,” Wright said after the game. “Moral victories are nice but that isn’t what we’re out here for.”