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Thursday, March 10, 2016

Central Girls Advance to State Basketball Semifinals

image and article from Commercial Appeal




The Central girls basketball team got to see firsthand why Kendall Spray has the state record for 3-pointers in a season. But Spray and her teammates got a chance to see why the Lady Warriors have won 35 games.

Jasmine Carson scored 17 points and fueled a second-half rally as the Lady Warriors defeated previously unbeaten Wilson Central, 48-43, on Wednesday at MTSU's Murphy Center to advance to the TSSAA BlueCross AAA semifinals.

The victory puts the Lady Warriors, who are making their first appearance at state since 2013, in Friday's 11:30 a.m. semifinals against Murfreesboro Riverdale, which defeated Morristown West, 70-55.

"Thirty-five and two is great," said Central coach Rashad Haynes. "But we have two more games to close out ... and win a state championship."

The Lady Warriors struggled offensively and shot just 36.7 percent from the floor (2 of 14 on 3-point shots). But their swarming defense more than made up for it and helped overcome a first-half barrage from Spray, a Tennessee-Martin signee and Miss Basketball finalist.

Despite constant hounding by several Lady Warrior defenders, Spray hit five 3-pointers and scored 17 of her team's 19 first-half points. Wilson Central led by six at the break.

"It makes you hair gray. Or the rest of the hair you have left," said Haynes.

Added Carson, "It was frustrating. But I told my team not to give up, that the game wasn't over yet."

And it wasn't. Central has shown all season that it can put up points in a hurry and it finally got its offense going after Wilson Central built a 30-20 lead with 3:16 to go in the third quarter.

Carson hit a 3-pointer, then converted a pair of steals into layups to make it 30-27 after three. A three-point play by Jireh Washington with 5:31 to go then gave Central its first lead since the first quarter, 34-33.

Layups by Brianna Cooks and Carson then gave the Lady Warriors a 43-39 edge with 1:31 to go in the game, and Carson and Miyah Barnes sealed the deal by combining to hit 5 of 6 late free throws.

Central also did a much better job on Spray, who holds the state record with 170 3-pointers. But she scored only four points in the second half. For the game, Wilson Central shot 14 of 40 from the floor (35 percent) and turned the ball over 22 times. Central, meanwhile, committed just three turnovers.

"I don't know that we've seen a team that's as long and athletic at all five positions," said Wilson Central coach John Wild, whose team ends the year 33-1. "We didn't value possession, that's it in a nutshell. ... We got a little tighter with the ball, but that's credit to them."

Haynes, who coached Central's boys to a state track championship last spring, said his team's conditioning played a key role.

"When the other team is tired, that takes a toll," he said. "It's a fundamental advantage we have. We never quit."

UAB signee Barnes had eight points for Central; Tijuana Griggs and Johne' Stewart added six apiece. "Our motivation is, we do what we say we're going to do," said Griggs. "We motivate ourselves."

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