Many boys' games were difficult to explain in topsy-turvy District 6-AA this high school basketball regular season, so why should the district tournament be any different? Friday night at Brainerd, it wasn't.
In the matchup between the closest-seeded teams in the quarterfinals, fourth-seeded Brainerd was dominant from the start in its 64-38 victory over fifth-seeded Central.
Brainerd (20-9) will host all the remaining games in the tournament. The Panthers, who have now earned a region berth in all 36 seasons coach Robert High has been in charge, will take on Tyner at 8:30 p.m., after Howard plays East Ridge at 7.
Action begins with girls' semifinals. Red Bank faces Tyner at 4 and Central takes on East Hamilton at 5:30.
Brainerd led from the opening half-minute when Jabari Greer's 3-point goal from the left wing started a 9-2 run. With the Panthers leading by nine points at the end of one quarter, the Purple Pounders' Dakota Smith made two free throws before Brainerd hit them with a run of 10 straight points to make it 32-15.
After Central got back within nine, Jeulian High scored inside three seconds before halftime to make it 35-24 and Brainerd's advantage remained double digits the rest of the way.
"We did a decent job on defense early," High said. "We were in a 1-3-1 and we wanted to identify the shooters. We started cheating a little bit toward them so they wouldn't have those wide-open shots. Then we did a decent job of boxing out and not giving them second shots."
High and Evans scored 19 and 16 points for Brainerd, which split with all three teams that tied for first in the district regular season but also split with seventh-seeded East Hamilton and eighth-seeded Hixson.
"Central is not a bad ball team," High said. "The key for us right now is to just win. We've just got to continue to play well. This district is as close as I've seen it."
Central, led by Colton Morgan's 13 points, ended its season 7-13. The Pounders haven't had many double-digit losses, but that was their third, and by far worst, to Brainerd.
Not all have been as boys' head coach, but Rick Rogers is in his 22nd year as a Central coach. He said the Pounders have beaten the Panthers twice in that time.
"I thought we were prepared," Rogers said. "Brainerd is the only team that baffles us. I don't know if it's the name on the front of the jersey or what. The worst part is you work all year to get to this game. Then I guess you can get so pumped up for it, you can overdo it."
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.