Hilltoppers hold off Mitchell
Last time R-S Central basketball took on Mitchell they stormed past them for an 84-42 win. Tuesday night was a different story as the Mountaineers gave Central all they could handle, but in the end, Central prevailed, 69-63.
"I've been telling the team all week to be ready for Mitchell because they're better than how they played last time," said head coach Greg Wright. "They certainly showed it tonight."
In the early going, Central made it appear as if it would be a repeat of their defeat of Mitchell earlier in the season by over 40 points.
The Hilltoppers opened on a 7-0 before the first minute of the game was even over.
The Mitchell offense couldn’t find an answer for the Hilltopper defensive pressure and offensive quickness.
Mitchell took their first timeout with 4:32 left in the first quarter with the Hilltoppers leading 15-5. That was the turning point of the game as the Mountaineers went on a run of their own to end the quarter down just five, 19-14.
The Mitchell run continued into the second quarter when they rallied for their first lead of the game at 22-21. The Mountaineers used their sheer size advantage down low to exploit Central’s aggressive defense that seemed to live on the perimeter.
"Our half-court defense was terrible," Wright said. "We weren't fighting through screens. We weren't talking. We were just getting beat."
Central’s Tracy Ross answered the call with five straight point to give the Hilltoppers the lead, however, it was short-lived.
Mitchell rallied to go back on top 28-26 before Central finished the half strong to go into the break leading 33-30.
Rashaun Whitesides shined for the Hilltoppers both under the basket and off of the dribble.
"Rashaun is our strongest kid," said Wright. "He hustles up and down the floor and plays extremely hard."Mitchell continued to play hard but never regained the lead in the second half.
Central jumped ahead 42-34 halfway through the third quarter before Jay Blanton restored the lead to double-digits with a three pointer putting Central on top 47-36.
Mitchell made it interesting when they cut the Central lead to just six with 5:30 left in the game, 51-45.
Another Blanton three pointer restored the lead but the Mountaineers just wouldn't go away and kept the deficit to single digits.
The Whitesides added the final four of his 23 points for the night, the last two in style courtesy of a Blanton alley that Whitesides ooped with just 1:30 remaining.
Mitchell scored the final six points of the game but the Hilltoppers took the 69-63 victory at the final buzzer.
Whitesides led Central with 23 points and five steals.
Blanton added 20 points of his own along with four rebounds, four steals and four assists.
Jaylen Hollis led the Hilltoppers on the glass with 10 rebounds to go along with his eight points.
"We had a lot of great individual efforts tonight that kept us in the game," said Wright. "We need to be able to turn those into great team efforts."
Central returns to the court Friday, Dec. 7 against McDowell at home. Tipoff is set for 7:30 p.m.