To call Central High School’s basketball season a roller-coaster ride might be an understatement at this point.
The Wildcats got a late start to their season, not playing their first game until Dec. 5. They then rattled off three straight wins, but then hit a six-game losing skid in the middle of December.
Central (9-6) has now won six straight — having not lost since before Christmas — but will put that streak on the line when it hosts No. 1-ranked Scotlandville (21-2) on Tuesday night.
Tip-off is set for 7:30 p.m.
Central coach Ron Lewis knows the challenge ahead.
“Scotlandville is a total team,” Lewis said. “They’re such a good team, and they make such few mistakes and force you to make so many mistakes. They know what it takes to win a championship. We look forward to the challenge. The guys know this is an important game for us, especially if we want to accomplish some of the goals we set forward at the beginning of the year.”
With both teams at 3-0 in District 4-5A, the winner will be in the driver’s seat for the district crown.
“I think we’re finally coming around,” Lewis said. “Where teams kind of go through a period of finding out where they are and start working on things to refine themselves, it took us a little bit longer to find those things.
“We knew having a late start that our defense was going to be the thing that was going to help us out.”
Central is going to need its defense in a big way Tuesday night, facing a Scotlandville team that averages nearly 70 points per game and beats its opponents by almost 25 points.
Scotlandville is littered with talent from center Damian Jones, who signed with Vanderbilt, to highly sought after forward Brian Bridgewater. The two big men power the Hornets with the help of guard Tre’Lun Banks and forward Jarad Sam, who also have gotten attention from colleges.
“I don’t know if you can prepare for them,” Lewis said. “They can hurt you from the inside with their three bigs, but they also have great guard play. If you can withstand that initial run that they normally have, we like our chances. We have to take care of the ball, and we have to do the things that we’re capable of.”
Ironically, it’s the same issue Scotlandville coach Carlos Sample addressed when preparing for the trip to Central.
Sample said the Hornets often start hot out of the gate, take an early advantage but quickly become complacent with the lead they’ve built.
“I’m just challenging them not to be as complacent in the second half,” Sample said. “You’ve got to play the second half just as hard as we do in the first half. (Central) is going to come out and play hard, be organized and be ready. When they’re on, they can hit shots. They can play together, and any given night they’re going to play hard.”