Third-period surge lifts Eagles past Falcons

Central's Kobi Hoover goes up for a breakaway dunk during the second quarter of their game on Monday night against East Rockingham in Woodstock. Rich Cooley/Daily

WOODSTOCK – Central and East Rockingham like to play the same style of basketball – getting up and down the floor and scoring in transition. On Monday night, East Rockingham simply played its style much better than Central.

The Eagles used their transition game to produce a big third period en route to a 79-62 non-district boys basketball victory over the Falcons.

“I’m really disappointed in the lack of competitive spirit that we showed in the second half during those runs,” Central coach Brandon Shields said. “I just expect more out of this particular group at this point in the season. I feel like when things got bad for us, we went away from the things that have been so good for us all year.”

The Falcons led 34-33 at the half, but the Eagles came to life in the third period. East Rockingham scored 29 points, much of which came from layups in transition.

East Rockingham switched to a 1-3-1 zone defense, which helped cause a few missed shots from Central and got the Eagles off and running.

Central's Hank Hoover jumps to block a pass by East Rockingham's Jaylen McNair during first half action on Monday night in Woodstock. Rich Cooley/Daily

“I think it was just a little bit of a change, and it got us a few possessions where they took not as good of shots as they had in the first half,” East Rockingham coach Carey Keyes said. “And when we can make teams shoot shots that they’re not comfortable with we can get out and run and that’s what happened. We really played well in transition there in the third quarter.”

The Eagles (6-6) scored the first 10 points of the third period. Central’s Ian Pugh made a free throw to cut the lead to 43-35 with 5:47 left in the quarter.

The two teams went back and forth until Central’s Luke Estep and Kobi Hoover scored on back-to-back baskets to cut the lead to 51-44 with 3:40 left in the third period.

However, the Eagles closed the period out with an 11-3 run to take a 15-point lead.

“This is the first time this year that I have questioned how hard they play and how tough they are,” Shields said. “As a coaching staff we’re disappointed in that right now. They beat us to every loose ball. They played harder. They just beat us into submission. I thought we laid down.”

Central's James Rodriguez finger rolls a shot in the lane while a group of Rockingham County defenders look on during first half action on Monday night in Woodstock. Rich Cooley/Daily

Things continued in the fourth period as the Eagles continued to run in transition at every opportunity. They also dominated the Falcons on the boards throughout most of the game.

“Our motto is box, rebound, run that’s what we try to do,” Keyes said. “When we play our best that’s what we’re doing.”

The Falcons (5-5) overcame an early deficit in the first half. They trailed the entire first period, by as much as seven points. In the second period the Falcons hit four 3-pointers to take as much as a five-point lead.

Both coaches said that the game was a lot like the first game they played, an 83-78 Central victory on Dec. 5. In that contest the Falcons took control of the game in the third period and held on for the win.

East Rockingham was led by Javon Butler with 30 points, including 17 in the third period. Logan Comer had 22 points for the Eagles.

Central's Luke Estep goes up for a shot over East Rockingham's Zach Hall during first half action Monday night in Woodstock. Rich Cooley/Daily

Keyes said he’s happy with the way his team, which has won three games in a row, is playing.

“Obviously, we’re playing well right now, but we’ve got to keep doing it,” Keyes said. “We don’t want to be playing our best right now. We want to be playing our best when the tournament gets here. We play again (Tuesday). We have to play Stonewall. We just want to try to build off of this, hopefully play another great game (Tuesday) night and go from there.”

Estep led the Falcons with 18 points. Hoover had 13 points, including a dunk in the second period, and Pugh had 11 for the Falcons.

Shields said he hopes the Falcons learn a lesson from the loss.

“I feel like we individually tried hard, but I don’t think we played hard as a team,” Shields said. “I feel like that is the main, hopefully, teaching point of the night.”

Contact staff writer Tommy Keeler at 540-465-5137 ext. 168, or tkeeler@nvdaily.com

Central's Varsey Bright runs into East Rockingham's Trenton Breeden during their game last week in Woodstock. The Falcons play at Strasburg on Thursday in district and conference play. Rich Cooley/Daily