OOLTEWAH, Tenn. — Chattanooga Central advanced to the semifinals of the District 6-AA Tournament on Friday evening with its 57-42 win at East Hamilton, securing a spot in the region tournament for the first time in five years.
“I knew we had it won,” Central senior David Holley said. “We didn’t want to lose; we came here to win. We’ve been here four years in a row and we’re finally going to regionals.”
Holley led all scorers with 18 points, helping the visiting Purple Pounders to the 57-42 victory—their second win at East Hamilton this month—while Robert Cobb and Colton Morgan each added 11 for No. 5 Central (15-8).
“The main thing I wanted to do tonight was to come out and be loose when we started the game; we know this is do or die time,” Central coach Richard Rogers said. “We started cutting up in the locker room before the game, trying to forget the atmosphere—come out and play like we wanted to play.”
The Pounders appeared plenty relaxed from the opening tip, never trailing in the contest after grabbing a two-score lead in the opening minutes. Central, which led 15-10 after one quarter, took a 27-18 lead into the locker room after Holley’s transition layup in the closing seconds of the first half.
East Hamilton (17-9), which was led by senior Cody Knox’s 13 points, showed signs of life in the third, but never quite came within striking distance. The fourth-seeded ‘Canes pulled to within five on Knox’s free-throw with 3:29 left, but Morgan capped a 7-0 Central run with his 3-pointer from the corner as the third-quarter clock expired.
Despite shooting just 9 of 16 from the free-throw line in the final period, the Pounders never led by less than eight in the closing period.
“I wasn’t concerned about the points, I was concerned with the clock,” Rogers said. “I told them nothing but free-throws and layups; I don’t want a shot in the fourth quarter, and we didn’t shoot one.”
Senior Dominic Powell scored 10 points for the Hurricanes, all of which came in the final two quarters, while senior LaDarius Watkins, who was responsible for his team's first three field goals, finished with nine.
The ‘Canes struggled with poor shooting throughout the 15-point defeat, and didn’t knock down a single 3-pointer in the first half. It wasn't from a lack of trying, though.
“We were trying to switch up from man to zone, man to zone; just keep their shooters a little bit off rhythm,” Rogers said. “When we came here last time they put 24 up on us in the first quarter because we zoned them; they got their feet stuck in the floor. Tonight we wanted to get their feet moving, get them out of their comfort zone a little bit.”
Powell finally got a trey to fall midway through the third quarter—Knox and junior Tre Herndon each added 3s in the fourth—but it was too little too late.
The Pounders will face top-seeded Howard in the semifinals Saturday at 2:45 p.m., while No. 2 Tyner will take on No. 3 Brainerd at 5:45 p.m.