Tuscaloosa County beats Central with decisive run

Central’s Terrence Rice (15) leaps in an attempt to block a shot by Tuscaloosa County’s Christopher Johnson. (Photo by Erin Nelson)

NORTHPORT | The Tuscaloosa County Wildcats made 12 of 16 free throws in the final four minutes Tuesday and downed Central 65-59 in boys high school basketball.

TCHS (15-3) made 14 of 18 foul shots in the fourth quarter, 25 of 44 for the game.

"It went like we knew it would go," TCHS coach Curt Weeks said. "It’s a typical County High-Central matchup. Every night we square off, the kids lay everything they’ve got out on the court. It was a war from start to finish.

"We thought we could be aggressive and get in some gaps. We were able to get to the foul line doing that. We tried to take what they gave us. We tried to make sure that we played every possession as hard as we could. Fortunately, it worked out for us at the end."

Central (12-4) cut the Wildcats’ lead to 55-53 on a Terrence Rice basket. The Wildcats answered with a 5-0 run. Justice Green made two free throws with 1:37 left. Green blocked a shot, secured the ball and got fouled. He made the first free throw but missed the second. Sophomore guard Que Hall claimed the offensive rebound, and Bayaka Bester made two free throws for a 60-53 advantage.

"It was very significant," Weeks said of the late surge. "The thing we stressed in practice was maintain your poise, maintain your composure. There’s probably going to be a big run there at the end, and that’s what we had. We made the plays down the stretch that you have to make. We just kept battling, kept fighting and we were fortunate to come out of here with a win."

Rice hit a jump shot, but Bester scored with an offensive rebound. After Central’s Eddie Harris converted a three-point play, Bester sank a free throw with 18 seconds left. Central’s Marcus Pippen hit a foul shot with 12 seconds left, and the Falcons set up their press. The Wildcats broke it and got the ball to Devious Lott, who made the final basket.

"I thought Que stepped up tonight and gave us what we thought he could give us offensively," Weeks said. "Christopher Johnson came up with four or five huge offensive rebounds. I was very proud of the energy he played with and how he was able to sustain that."

Hall led the Wildcats with 24 points. Johnson scored 19, and Justin Guy had seven. Bester scored all six of his points in the fourth quarter.

Jevaris Richey and Rice scored 15 points each for the Falcons. Vincent Davis had nine points, and Harris scored eight.

"We didn’t block out and get rebounds the way we should have," Central coach Robert Watson said. "Of course, they went to the free-throw line quite a bit. That’s the deciding factor right there.

"I thought our guards played well against their guards, but our forwards, for some reason they didn’t rebound. One of our best rebounders, Jaylin Beard, I think he only got three rebounds tonight. He normally averages about eight or nine.

"Coach Weeks has got a pretty good team. I wish them luck the rest of the season."

Central plays at McAdory on Friday. TCHS plays at home against Hillcrest on Friday.

Reach Andrew Carroll at andrew.carroll@tuscaloosanews.com or at 205-722-0223.