Just about every bounce went the way of the East Ridge boys' basketball team in the first half of its District 6-AA opener Tuesday night against visiting Central.
The Pioneers never trailed, drained five 3-pointers, played stifling defense and built a 23-point halftime lead that carried coach Jon Goddard's undersized squad to a 59-45 win over the Purple Pounders.
"Having a chance to lead the district early in the year is good. We'll take it every time," Goddard said. "We've been playing pretty well. We played some tough teams coming into this where we learned to move and share the ball. In that first half we just played straight-up man-to-man (defense) to get into the passing lanes and make them earn everything, and we did just that."
East Ridge (2-3) wasted no time jumping on a Central team that was making its season debut. Before four minutes ticked off the game clock, the Pioneers had a double-digit lead behind 3-pointers from Tyrone Martin and Alonzo Russell. Teammate Sam Garmany joined the action later in the opening quarter with a couple 3-pointers of his own — the second of which put the Pioneers up 13 points before they outscored Central 16-8 in the second frame.
"During a lot of our summer games our chemistry wasn't where it needed to be," Russell said. "That's something we really needed to work on early in the season, but right now I think it's sky high and hopefully it'll only get better."
While East Ridge used the second half to work on building depth with the reserves, the Purple Pounders found a new energy and outscored the Pioneers 25-18.
Darick Isom led Central in scoring with 12 points. Garmany led all scorers with 14, while Russell was right behind him with 12 points and Martin and Derie Tremble each added eight.
"East Ridge took it to us in the first half. That's partly my fault and partly a young team that hasn't really played varsity basketball together trying to take it upon themselves to make things happen," Central coach Rick Rogers said. "We're the youngest and most inexperienced team in the district, so we're going to take our knocks, but we just have to keep working to get better."
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