Didn't really have the time to get a game thread up yesterday, but a game that played out like this one did and matching up what will be come the weekend the top two teams in our region poll does bear a recap.
Central never trailed in the game. Skyelar Potter got them off on the right foot, scoring 11 points in the first quarter to stake Central to a 23-12 lead, but Bowling Green closed with five straight make it 23-17 at the end of the quarter. Jarius Key had 9 points in the quarter including a crowd pleasing slam - the stars came to play. Central hit the break up 41-28, but most crucially, they had three starters with three fouls. 30 seconds into the third quarter, Jordan Cousin - their second leading scorer - picked up his fourth. Central took their largest lead of the game at 48-32 before a 6-2 run made it 50-38 entering the final quarter. By this point, Cousin, Bibb, and Mee all had four fouls, and Barber had three - all starters. That's when the Purples made their move. It started with a 7-2 run in the first two minutes, and then less than minute after that it was a 56-50 game. 1:30 after that, the Purples had climbed all the way back in for a 56 all tie. They accomplished this with smothering full court pressure, aggressive defense in the front court, and converting their standard halfcourt possessions. Jarius Key fouled Cousin out with a poster dunk on a drive from the three point line. Kolbe Gray had a ridiculous circus shot make where the ball rolled across the top of the backboard and dropped in, fouling out Barber. And then, as suddenly as Bowling Green had closed the gap, they stopped scoring. The Dragons made a shot and then made their free throws, scoring the final ten points of the game. Some takeaways:
-If there was any doubt Central was the #1 team in the region, there isn't now.
-If there was any doubt Bowling Green is the team most poised to beat them, there isn't now.
-Both teams probably had psychological wins here. The Purples have dominated the series of late, but with so many departures, may have questioned exactly where they were. They fell way behind, so they know they have some shortcomings, but were clearly in position to grab the win at the end. For the Dragons, it gets the weight off their back, letting them know they can indeed beat Bowling Green. There isn't another team in the region that can go toe to toe with them like that.
-Central's depth is a serious issue, and is likely their true Achilles heel. They went seven deep during the game. They sprinkle in Richardson from time to time and they were without Muleka (injury) who would have played more, but it is rare for this team to go beyond 8 deep. That's all well and good until they all get in foul trouble. Fouls limited the ability of most of the Central scorers to be aggressive and attack the rim, which led to a nightmare scenario for the Dragons. Contrary to popular belief, they do have players beyond Potter, and they need those players. Potter only had one foul, and therefore was about the only guy at the end who could be trusted to play aggressive defense and attack inside. The Dragons had 41 points at the half. They'd only scored 15 points in the second half by the 3:28 mark of the 4th quarter. The change was palpable.
-Jarius Key is the clear #2 in the region behind Potter. He's athletic, drives the ball well, and has a decent post game. He's a rebounding machine, and his length causes huge issues on defense. If he had the outside game that Terry Taylor had, then everyone would be in trouble. His dunk on Cousin was a thing of beauty, and just further fueled the partisan crowd, rattling the Dragons.
-I feel as confident as ever that these teams will play four times this year.