Central 9 5 7 20 - 41
Howard 8 12 16 16 - 52
Central (41) - Swafford 9, Tiller, Billingsley, Cobb 5, Hill, Haynes 3, Colton Morgan 13, Stewart, Smith 2, Holley 9.
Howard (52) - McCauley 5, Byrd, Smith 7, Cameron, Brummitt 3, Norwood 2, Walton 2, Cudjoe Young 15, Harris 3, Brandon Walters 15.
3-point goals: Central 4 (Swafford, Haynes, Morgan, Holley); Howard 2 (Smith, Young). Records: Howard 25-5; Central 16-11.
ATHENS, Tenn. - Howard held a huge edge in experience Tuesday evening in its Region 3-AA semifinal basketball game against Central. Central's Purple Pounders might have had an edge in age, with six seniors, but the Hustlin' Tigers had been this far before.
The Tigers outscored the Pounders 38-12 in the second and third quarters and advanced to the region championship game with a 52-41 victory at McMinn County High School. The Hustlin' Tigers (25-5) will face McMinn Central (28-3) at 6:30 p.m. Thursday with both teams assured of state sectional games Monday.
Cudjoe Young and Brandon Walters each scored 15 points for Howard, and both had fourth-quarter dunks when the game was starting to get out of hand, but coach Walter McGary applauded the team's defensive effort.
"We didn't want to lose," McGary said. "We started playing defense, rebounding and running a little bit, and that made a difference."
He said there might have been a small case of "overconfidence" against the Pounders, whom the Tigers had defeated in two of three previous meetings. Central led 9-8 after a quarter but managed only five field goals in the ensuing 16 minutes.
Howard started the second half with a 9-0 run and never let up.
"The team that showed up tonight -- that's not my team," McGary said. "I guess we didn't get up for them, but hopefully we'll get up for McMinn [Central] on Thursday.
Colton Morgan scored 13 points to lead the Pounders (16-11), while Dewaun Swafford and David Holley each had nine. Holley scored all but two of his points in the first quarter, as the Pounders' postseason run came to a close after road wins over East Hamilton, Tyner and Meigs County.
"You hate to see a season like this end," Central coach Rick Rogers said. "I'm really going to miss this senior class. They were a special group."