Then an unlikely hero stepped up for the Warriors.
“Probably one of the most valuable plays of the season came from a kid who never plays much,” Central coach T.J. McAmis said after watching his team take a key 73-45 district win over Lee High on Tuesday at Central’s gym. “We talked on (following a loss to Abingdon on Jan. 17). His name is Colton Culbertson and he just shared his heart with the team and the way things are going. And it was kind of the turnaround.
“We’re a totally different team since the Abingdon game and I credit it to (Culbertson) and a couple of other kids that said, ‘Hey, listen, I don’t play but we’ve got to pick things up a little bit.’ And that’s why you see us with a different edge.”
See Roddy Addington’s 📸📸📸 from Tuesday
McAmis noted that Culbertson, a junior, “kind of brought us together. We’re playing different. We’re playing more inspired and we’re playing a lot better defense.”
Defense was the key for Central (13-5, 6-2) in the game-changing second quarter.
Both teams picked up several fouls in the opening quarter, which led to McAmis switching out of his man-to-man defense.
Central led 17-14 one minute into the second, but the Warriors spent the rest of the period on a 20-3 run that gave them a 37-17 halftime lead.
“It was probably a good thing we got in foul trouble early. We got in foul trouble pretty bad in the first quarter and we had to adjust and we went to a zone,” the coach remarked. “I know there was a lot of free throws shots, but I thought for the most part they called them on us and they called them on them.
“I thought it was pretty consistent.”
Senior Isaiah McAmis hit enough free throws to add yet another mark to the Wise Central record book.
McAmis, who recently set the school scoring mark, connected on 16 of 18 free throws to give him 348 for his career, surpassing the previous school record of 336.
McAmis finished with a game-high 30 points. Elijah Hayes came through with 29 for the Warriors and connected on 16 of 17 free throws.
Jacob Whitaker scored 14 points to lead Lee High (10-6, 2-5).
CENTRAL GIRLS FINISH STRONG
In the opener, the Lady Warriors (9-9, 4-4) broke open a close game by outscoring Lee High 37-18 in the second half to take a 59-36 victory.
Central made halftime adjustments to move the ball inside to the Lady Warriors’ Hannah Carter, who scored 15 of her game-high 24 points in the second half.
“We shot the ball a little bit better, and we got the ball into the gaps a little bit better and finished,” Central coach Robin Dotson said. “I guess our free-throw shooting kept us afloat in the first half.
“But we weren’t recognizing where we needed to get the ball. That was one of our focuses at halftime.”
Drew Cox led Lee’s scorers with 14 points. Madison Jessee added 11 for the Lady Generals (4-14, 0-7).
Central travels to Ridgeview on Friday.
Lee High goes to Union that night.