Falcons’ resiliency in stretch leads to win

WOODSTOCK – Central’s boys basketball coach Brandon Shields said his team was simply resilient in the fourth period of Tuesday’s Bull Run District matchup with visiting William Monroe.

After leading for most of the first three periods, the Falcons entered the final quarter trailing by two points. Central responded by scoring 28 in the fourth quarter while also making some key defensive stops down the stretch to pick up a 65-54 victory.

“Coming off our last game (Saturday against Warren County) where I don’t think we held our composure very well, I thought that we responded positively tonight when adversity came,” Shields said. “We made the right plays when we needed to make the right plays. We got key stops, which again has been an issue all year. … We needed a stop a couple times and we got them at key times tonight.”

Central (8-5, 5-2 Bull Run) led from the 3:50 mark of the first period until 2:19 remained in the third before the game turned into a back-and-forth affair. After a trio of Monroe (9-4, 4-2) 3-pointers – including two by Jalen Anderson – gave the Dragons a 48-44 lead, Shields called a timeout with 5:05 to play.

Immediately out of the timeout, Falcons sophomore Varsey Bright slashed to the basket for a layup off the inbound pass, and sophomore Luke Estep followed with a 3-pointer from the corner to give Central a 49-48 lead with 4:22 left. Those two buckets triggered what would become a 21-6 Falcons run over the final five minutes of the game.

“I think it just lifted up our confidence, seeing a ball go through the bucket,” said Estep, who, along with Bright, led the Falcons with 16 points to go along with nine rebounds. “And that just transferred to more balls going in the bucket.”

The Dragons countered with two free throws and a driving bucket by Anthony Terry (16 points, 15 rebounds) to reclaim a 52-49 lead before two free throws from Estep pulled Central back within a point.

Falcons senior Hank Hoover, who got a rare start on Tuesday, gave Central the lead with a driving layup after freezing a Monroe defender with a shot fake. After a driving bucket by Dragons junior Kam’ron McCain, Hoover tipped in a miss on Estep’s baseline floater to give the Falcons a 55-54 lead with 1:58 to play, beginning a 12-0 run to end the game.

“In the beginning I could tell it was gonna be a hard game, you have three or four guys who are a couple inches taller than you,” said Hoover, who had 11 points and nine rebounds. “Later on they were starting to wear down so you knew it was your time to step up and get the boards and help your team.”

William Monroe, which struggled to hit shots in the paint early on, missed a chip-shot inside with 1:20 to play, which Central immediately followed with a 3-pointer from Kobi Hoover which put the Falcons up four with 1:08 left. Central hit five of their final six free throws to seal the win, its third straight.

The Falcons went primarily with a 2-3 zone defense and benefited from some poor shooting by William Monroe in building a 17-9 lead early. The Dragons eventually rallied to tie the game at 21-all with 50 seconds left in the first half before a layup by Estep and a 3-pointer by Josh Orndorff put the Falcons up five. McCain hit two free throws after being fouled at the buzzer to cut Central’s lead to 26-23 at halftime.

Central shot 46.2 percent (24 for 52) in the win while holding Monroe to a 35.7-percent (20 for 56) mark. The Dragons shot just 28.6 percent in the first half.

“That’s the first time we’ve used (the 2-3 zone) that much,” Shields said. “We just thought they had some penetrators that we didn’t feel we matched up very well with. We were gonna try to make them beat us from outside and it worked early on and then they hit a bunch of big 3’s there in the second half that brought them back in it.”

William Monroe also held a decisive advantage on the boards until midway through the third period when Central leading rebounder Kobi Hoover entered the game for the first time. The Dragons ended the night with a 35-31 rebounding advantage.

“We did a good job surviving the first half as far as rebounding goes and then Kobi really picked us up with his minutes in the second half,” Shields said. “And we missed him early but he really picked us up in the second half with rebounding and hustle plays.”

Ian Pugh added 11 points for Central, while Bright added six rebounds.

Contact staff writer Brad Fauber at 540-465-5137 ext. 161, or bfauber@nvdaily.com