The TSSAA basketball season is barely more than a week old, but already some shockwaves have rocked one of the local districts.
Central's boys, who hadn't been involved in as much as a scrimmage other than their own purple and gold game, played their home opener and District 6-AA opener Tuesday night and stunned previously 2-0 East Hamilton 47-37.
For coach Rick Rogers and his Purple Pounders, it was a case of a plan coming together. Coupled with some poor shooting by the Hurricanes -- they were 9-of-25 from the free-throw line -- a patient offense and a zone defense were the blueprint for success.
"I think being the underdog kind of fired us up," Rogers said. "I've never had a group work this hard in the preseason. We don't have any superstars. We just try to play together. I told them before the game the only way to beat that crew is to have two-hand passes and make two-hand catches, which equals ball control.
"Defensively we wanted them to shoot that midrange jump shot nobody practices anymore. We thought that would give us a chance, and we knew we had to hustle."
Rogers expressed a hope for a game in the 40s and got more than expected, seeing the Hurricanes held to less.
"We were averaging 64 and a half points a game after playing two top-tier teams that were bigger and faster than them," East Hamilton coach Michael Stone said. "Their zone stifled us."
Central had some foul issues early, putting the Hurricanes in the bonus by the 2:23 mark of the first quarter. But they missed their first five free throws.
The Purple Pounders didn't trail until Gentry Bell's 3-point shot for the first points of the third quarter made it 20-18. Bell had East Hamilton's first 11 points in the second half and led the team with 18. His next-closest teammate was Cody Knox with nine.
"We're still young in a basketball sense," said Stone, who heads a third-year varsity program with hope of improving greatly on last year's 10-18 record. "Against a zone you've got to be able to read gaps and see the floor.
"You've got to play hard and smart. We only did half."
The Pounders took the lead for good when guard Dewuan Swafford, who led them with 15 points, converted both ends of a one-and-bonus situation with 20.4 seconds to go in the third quarter. Counting those, they were 11-of-15 from the line down the stretch and 15-of-23 for the game.
"We weren't expected to do anything," Rogers said. "We don't have any seniors that start. We know any time out we could be the underdog, but we're going to come at you as best we can."
Also scoring in double figures for Central were David Holley with 12 and Colton Morgan with 10.
Kelley Smiddie is a sports writer who has worked at the Times Free Press for 12 years. He covers high school sports and softball. Kelley’s hometown is Chattanooga, and he graduated from Brainerd High School and graduated Chattanooga State and UTC. Contact Kelley at 423-757-6653 or firstname.lastname@example.org.