ENGLEWOOD, Tenn. — Howard advanced to Thursday’s Region 3-AA championship with its 52-41 win over Chattanooga Central on Thursday, marking the Hustlin’ Tigers’ third-straight win over the Pounders this season.
Howard (25-5), which suffered its first District 6-AA loss of the season at Central on Dec. 14, grabbed the lead in the second quarter, used an 8-0 run to extend it in the third, and the Pounders never recovered.
“We started sharing the ball; moving the ball around,” Tigers coach Walter McGary said. “When we do that we’re a dangerous ball club.”
Four different Howard players knocked down shots in the first 3:14 of the third quarter, and the Tigers held a 15-point advantage after three.
The undersized Pounders tried to mount a comeback in the final period, but to no avail. They simply didn’t have an answer for Howard’s huge front line, particularly 6-8 senior Brandon Walters.
“I thought we did a good job shutting [Walters] down in the first half,” Central coach Rick Rogers said. “It was basically the score I wanted. I wanted something around 50 points, but we just couldn’t put the ball in the hole. We’ve never been in [McMinn County’s gym] before, and our 3-point shooters were coming up short all night, along with our free-throw shooting. We’ve shot it a lot better than that.”
The Pounders didn’t hit their first 3-pointer until late in the third quarter, and when they finally started knocking down some shots, they couldn’t come up with the stops. When they got the stops, they couldn’t keep the Tigers off the offensive glass.
“Just to be in this position; these kids worked as hard as anyone,” Rogers said. “They have the heart, the desire and they want to win, but we know how good of a team Howard is."
Cudjoe Young finished with 15 points for the Tigers, Antonio Smith added seven, and Lorenzo McCauley chipped in five.
Central was led by Colton Morgan’s 13 points, while David Holley and Dewuan Swafford each contributed nine.
”Central is pesky,” McGary said. “They started making some shots, and anybody can beat anybody on a given night. Coach Rogers had a good game plan for slowing us down."
The Tigers will take on McMinn Central in Thursday’s Region 3-AA title game, and regardless of the outcome, they’ll advance to Monday's sectional game. If Howard defeats the Chargers, it’ll host the loser of Thursday’s Region 4-AA title game between Livingston Academy and DeKable County. A loss would send the Tigers on the road to face the winner.