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Falcons advance to state semifinals with win over Bulldogs

Varsey Bright

PALMYRA — Central made sure history didn’t repeat itself.

With the Falcons holding a double-digit lead in the fourth period, boys basketball coach Jeff Whittle reminded his team how important it was to finish the game strong.

The Falcons listened and knocked off Goochland, 59-45, in the Class 2 State quarterfinals on Saturday afternoon at Fluvanna County High School.

“We were up 13 with four or five minutes left and we just told them, last game we were like this and we kind of coughed the game up,” Whittle said. “We just got to keep playing, making solid decisions.”

Whittle was referring to Central’s Region 2B final loss to Robert E. Lee, in which the Falcons held a 13-point lead with less than seven minutes left.

Sam Shifflett

The Falcons (24-4) had no trouble closing out the Bulldogs and senior Varsey Bright played a key role.

The guard scored 9 of his game-high 16 points in the fourth period.

“I knew we had a lead. I knew we had to be aggressive,” Bright said. “We couldn’t be frantic. So basically I was just aggressive, kept scoring, increasing the lead, and that’s what I did.”

Bright said he was very happy with how the team stayed composed in the fourth period.

The Falcons led the game from start to finish. The Bulldogs used a 7-1 run to cut the lead to 37-33 with 1:52 left in the third quarter.

Whittle called a timeout, and the Falcons went on a 17-4 run to put the game away.

Central’s Jared Patton started the run with 5 straight points, including a 3-pointer.

“The one 3 he hit was huge,” Whittle said of Patton. “We called a timeout to kind of settle them down. (Goochland) went on a nice run there. (Patton) hit a big 3 that kind of got our game back up.”

Bright and Sam Shifflett combined to score 10 points during the decisive run.

Shifflett, known for his 3-point shooting, hit two hook shots in the quarter. Shifflett said he probably surprised the Bulldogs with his ability to score inside the paint.

“They were face-guarding me, so we just took it inside,” Shifflett said. “And they were falling, so I just kept shooting them. I think they were just expecting a 3-point shooter. I don’t think they knew I had that in my arsenal.”

Both teams started the game off sluggish. Central had five turnovers in the opening quarter, while Goochland went 3-for-11 (27.3 percent) from the field.

The Falcons held a 9-8 lead with just 20 seconds left in the opening quarter but used a 13-1 run to take a double-digit lead.

Shifflett, Bright and Dominic Strother each hit a 3-pointer during the spurt.

Things got even worse for Goochland late in the first half. The Bulldogs’ top scorer throughout the season, Deion Harwood, suffered a leg injury and did not return to the game.

Goochland (22-5) was led by Quincy Snead with 14 points and Jamel Allen with 11.

After the game, Central’s players went over to the Falcons’ student section ‘The Nest’ and celebrated with them.

“That’s a great thing,” Central senior Bryan Davis said. “You’re only in high school once. That’s one of those things you’re never going to forget.”

Shifflett had 14 points and Davis had 5 points and nine rebounds for the Falcons.

It is Central’s first appearance in the state semifinals since 1999.

Central plays defending state champion Robert E. Lee in the Class 2 state semifinals on Tuesday at Spotswood High School. The Leemen won, 71-68, over Central in last week’s Region 2B final.

Davis said the Falcons will take a lot of confidence into the game with the Leemen.

“We know we can run with them,” Davis said. “We can play with them. Everyone knows that now — that we can hang with the best. It’s just going to come down to little details, being strong with the ball and not turning the ball over.”