The District 6-AA boys' high school basketball quarterfinal Friday at East Hamilton was about as ugly as it gets, and an absolute thing of beauty as far as Central is concerned.
Thanks to some things the Purple Pounders were able to dictate and to some other things that just worked in their favor, fifth-seeded Central defeated the fourth-seeded Hurricanes 57-42.
Beginning with today's semifinal action, the rest of the tournament will take place at Hixson. Central (14-9) will play in today's first boys' game at 2:45 p.m.
East Hamilton's girls (21-8), 64-26 winners Friday over Red Bank, will play Tyner (9-15) in today's opener at 1. The other girls' and boys' games are scheduled at 4:30 and 6:15.
The Purple Pounders never trailed from the moment Robert Cobb made a jump shot from the right wing to start the scoring 38 seconds into the game. The only tie was at 2.
Central, however, didn't begin to assume some real control until its 9-2 run to close the first half made it 27-18.
"If you had told me we would go 0-for-12 from the 3-point line in the first half with our 3-point shooters," East Hamilton coach Michael Stone said, "I would've told you, you were crazy. We've got three kids shooting 38 percent or better on 3s, and every one of them went either 0-for-3 or 0-for-4 in the first half. Any one of those kids makes two and it's a three-point ballgame at the half."
Purple Pounders coach Rick Rogers complimented East Hamilton for having "the best stationary shooters we've faced." But Central's defense forced many of the shots Friday to be taken on the move. And it hoped being patient on the other end would lead to more rushed shots for the Hurricanes.
"They've got us in length, they've got us in size and they've got us in strength," Rogers said. "But one thing they couldn't fight was at this level of basketball there's not a shot clock. If there had been a shot clock, it would've been a different ballgame."
East Hamilton was within 31-26 after Cody Knox made the first of two free throws at 3:29 of the third quarter. But Central was back up by 13 by the end of the quarter, finishing it off on a buzzer-beating 3-pointer by Colton Morgan from the same corner he hit a game-winner from Feb. 1, and it led by at least eight the rest of the way.
"Our guys have been through the wars with Howard, Brainerd, Tyner, on their floors, on our floor. This environment didn't really affect them like it would a typical group of kids," Rogers said of East Hamilton's loud student section and it's Beach Night theme. "We've got seven seniors and they wanted to do something. I wanted it for them, and our fans."
David Holley topped the Pounders with 18 points. Cobb and Morgan totaled 11 apiece.
Knox's 13 points led the 'Canes. Dominic Powell's 10 were all after halftime.
"I felt like our guys played hard," Stone said. "We didn't come out and just hand the game away. It's just of all nights to go cold. It seems like the tighter they got in the paint, the worse we shot the ball. You just can't win games at any level, and especially in District 6-AA, scoring 40 points."
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.