All things considered Central felt fortunate at halftime.
The Wildcats trailed homestanding Belaire by six points after committing more turnovers (11) than points scored (9).
“We couldn’t play any worse,” Central coach Ron Lewis said. “I didn’t have to do much of the talking at halftime. They worked it out themselves. They coached me on what they needed to do, and they executed.”
Central caught Belaire at the end of the third quarter on Josh Hebert’s putback and took the lead for good with 6:24 to play on Austin Stewart’s 3-pointer that lifted the Wildcats to a 37-32 victory Tuesday.
“We finally started making baskets toward the end,” Lewis said. “Belaire’s length gave us some trouble in the first half. We shot the ball better and took better care of the ball. We found the open man and hit a timely three that finally put us over that hump.”
Central (6-2) opened as much as a six-point lead (35-29) with 2:03 remaining on a layup from Titus Woolfolk, who sparked the Wildcats’ comeback with seven of his nine points in the second half.
Belaire (11-5), which shot 23 percent in the second half and 27 percent overall, made 3 of 11 shots in the fourth quarter and didn’t get any closer than the final score.
Terrance Johnson and Tim Johnson led the Bengals with 13 and 10 points.
“Missed layups and missed free throws have been our Achilles’ heel all year,” Belaire coach Chauncey Moore said. “We made 5 of 12 free throws, and that’s not including the number of layups we missed. We played well on defense, but at times we get stagnated and can’t put it in the hole.”
Belaire turned a 9-5 first-quarter lead into a 13-7 advantage less than two minutes into the second quarter, courtesy of Zach Besant’s layup off an assist from Tim Johnson.
Aside from their early shooting — the Bengals made 6 of its first 12 shots — it was their tough 2-3 zone defense that limited the Wildcats to only 12 field goal attempts in the half because of their inability to take care of the basketball.
“We were lucky to be down only six,” Lewis said. “Belaire didn’t shoot the ball extremely well to our benefit and helped out in the end.”
Kevin Henry, an Oklahoma State football commitment, scored eight of his team-high 10 points in the final 16 minutes, opening the third quarter with a 17-foot jumper.
Woolfolk tied the game for the first time at 20-all with 3:42 showing, erasing a five-point deficit with five straight points. Central, which shot 56 percent in the half, took its first lead on Stewart’s 15-footer and held that going into the fourth quarter after Hebert’s putback with 2.0 seconds left.
“I’m proud of them, they’re learning,” Lewis said. “We have two starters back. It’s basically a whole new team and these guys are working and buying into the system. They’re truly becoming one unit.”