Central's Purple Pounders knew they would have to get off to a good start Tuesday to have any chance of winning their District 6-AA high school basketball game at Brainerd. But even that didn't help.
It took a while before Brainerd turned up the defensive pressure, but the Panthers eventually did and won 60-49.
Central led 9-3 with the game's first points coming on Dewuan Swafford's 3-pointer, the first of seven for the Pounders.
But Brainerd (4-2, 1-0) closed the first quarter on a 14-3 run, which included 3s by Demetrius Kitchens and Tshombe High. The Panthers countered with six 3s overall.
"I saw a lot of good things," Brainerd coach Robert High said. "We shoot it pretty well. Our problem is we're really low in numbers. I actually don't have but seven varsity people right now. We just need to get healthy."
The Panthers' largest lead of the first half was 31-19. Yet the Pounders showed some fight in battling back within 33-32 within the first two minutes of the second half, getting to that score on consecutive 3-point shots, 35 seconds apart, by Colton Morgan.
Until then the Panthers had shown Central 2-1-2 and 1-3-1 zones. Coach High decided then to go man-to-man.
"When he hit that 3 from the corner I said, 'That's enough of that,'" he said. "I said, 'Let's just go now to the man.' I probably would've started in the man, but like I said, we've only got seven kids. If you're tired, you're not going to perform down the stretch."
After a free throw by Brainerd's Marques Tipton, Central (1-1, 1-1) had the chance to tie with two free throws but Swafford missed both. The Panthers then closed the third quarter on a 12-4 run and went to the fourth leading 46-36.
"It was just a few unforced turnovers that hurt us more than anything," Central coach Rick Rogers said. "When it was 34-32, I think we had three bad passes in a row, they pushed the lead up and we never recovered from it.
"Still, I'm so proud of them. They're learning how to play with these teams. I didn't see any intimidation on their faces."
Kitchens had a 10-point first quarter and led Brainerd with 16. Jeulian High added 12 points.
Swafford led the Pounders with 12 points. Morgan had 11.