Hilltoppers recover, route Panthers
It took them a little while to get the wheels turning, but when they did, the R-S Central Hilltoppers had a relatively easy path to a 67-49 victory over Patton (4-12, 0-4 SMAC).
The starting five for the Hilltoppers (9-7, 2-2 SMAC) struggled in the early-going falling behind 7-2 and forcing head coach Greg Wright to pull them all in favor of the second team.
“We weren’t playing without any energy or hustle,” Wright said. “I wanted my guys to know that I wasn’t going to watch that kind of basketball.”
After ther first quarter the Hilltoppers trailed the undersized Panthers 12-7.
The reserves started the second quarter and Jahari Miller pulled Central to within two at 14-12 with five quick points.
The Central starters re-entered the game with 4:57 left in the half and Jordan Hamilton quickly turned a four-point deficit into a two-point lead with two 3-pointer. The 20-18 lead with 3:20 left in the half was Central’s first since going up 2-0. Central took a 24-22 lead into the half.
“The bench came in and provided a lot of energy for us. Of course they didn’t do everything right but they cut into the lead and I think the starters fed off of that energy,” said Wright.
Hamilton’s third 3 of the game put Central back to a comfortable four-point lead at 33-29 with just over four minutes left in the third quarter.
A Jaylen Hollis dunk gave the Hilltoppers their first double-digit lead at 43-33 with 1:26 left in the third.
Even with a Norman Aiken 3-pointer from 35 feet waved off after the buzzer, Central had a 48-36 lead going into the fourth quarter.
Central keep scoring in the fourth and extended the lead to 66-47 with a minute left. Wright sent in the reserves for the final 60 seconds as the Hilltoppers cruised to the 67–49 win.
Rashaun Whitesides led the Hilltoppers with 21 points and five rebounds while Hollis added 10 points and seven boards.
Central returns to action Friday night when they welcome Shelby to The Palace. Tipoff is set for 7:30 p.m.