But first things first, the Lady Lions had to deal with Coretta Scott King on Tuesday — which they did in a 69-22 runaway — and next in line is a Friday night date with a struggling Rockmart ball club before Central can fully zero in on the Lady Panthers (11-2, 3-0 Region 4-AAA) in what will be the first signature region game of the year to date.
“We’ve got Rockmart on Friday and then that Chapel Hill game is looming big. It’s looming large,” Lady Lion coach Jimmy LeBlanc said. “We’ve got to stay healthy and keep polishing and hopefully we’ll be in a position to be able to give Chapel Hill a run for their money.”
As for Tuesday’s affair, the Lady Lions (10-4, 3-0) — winners of five straight — pounced on the Lady Eagles (3-10, 0-3) early, opening the game on a 24-1 run into the opening minutes of the second quarter before Coretta Scott King converted its first field goal.
The combination of juniors Sherae Bonner and Hayley Sims scored Central’s first 14 points, though everyone got in on the action in this one.
Bonner led all scorers with 20 points, getting 16 in the first half, to go along with a game-high 16 rebounds and three blocked shots. She was joined in double figures by Jasmine Thrash (18 points) and Wesli Simmons (12 points, seven rebounds), while Brianna Cousins added nine points, 12 rebounds and two blocked shots and Sims got all six of her points in the first quarter. Cici Hammett added four points and five boards for Central.
And while everyone contributed to the victory, Thrash’s effort off the bench has been an encouraging development in recent weeks, as the athletic guard brings instant offense and a strong defensive presence in the backcourt.
“She’s been doing that. She really has. She and I have talked about it. We’ve got six of them that are playing good enough to start, but she’s given us a spark and a skill set that others aren’t able to give. It’s unique. She’s really kind of embraced that, and [Tuesday] she stepped in as a defender, she steps in as somebody that’s going to score, too. So she’s really done an excellent job the last few games,” LeBlanc said.
Though the outcome of the game was never in doubt, LeBlanc was pleased to see his squad continue executing the game plan and working for bigger and better things down the stretch of the season.
“They came out and they played hard and I thought the hard thing that once we got control of the game, we worked on a lot of things and I was really excited that they really stayed disciplined with what they were doing,” LeBlanc said. “We were working on things that they’re going to need to continue to do, so I was proud of that.”
Central boys 81, B.E.S.T. Academy 39: The Lions (8-5, 3-0) were able to wear down an out-manned Eagle squad that brought just six players into the Lions Den on Tuesday, as nine different Central players got in the scoring column, led by three guys in double figures.
“They’re a talented bunch and they’re going to play hard. Supposedly, they had some problems with kids over break not showing up for practice and the coach is a firm believer in discipline and he told the kids if they don’t show up for practice, they won’t play. I commend him for that. But with only six guys, we were able to tire them down and were able to continue to push the ball up the floor and get some good looks,” Central coach Darius Smiley said.
Central built a 22-13 lead after one and took a 43-21 advantage into intermission, knocking down six treys in the first half and 11 for the game.
“I thought our core group of eight or nine guys that we have in our rotation did a good job coming out. We shot the ball really well from the outside [Tuesday]. And I thought that gave us a chance to build a lead and it gave us a chance to work our bench and get some more guys some playing time,” Smiley said.
Kahlil Wynn led Central with 18 points and six rebounds, while Justis Ward added 14 points and five boards and Shaq Allen dropped in 13 points off the bench. Eight of the nine players that scored recorded at least six points for the Lions.
And with Tuesday opening a critical, three-game stretch of 4-AAA action this week — all at home — Central has an opportunity to put itself on solid ground in the region standings with Rockmart coming in on Friday and Chapel Hill paying a visit Saturday night.
“I just told the guys [in the locker room] that we’re 3-0 to start the new year. That was our main focus. We ended 5-5 in 2012. With 2013, it’s a whole new year, a fresh start, and I feel like we’ve done a good job starting. We’ve just got to continue to build upon what we’ve done so far and continue to get better,” Smiley said. “We’ve got a good Rockmart team coming in. They played Callaway to a close game the other night, so I’m expecting it to be a close game.”