WOODSTOCK – Central saw some momentum slip away in the second quarter, but the Falcons didn’t waste any time in getting it back in the second half.
The Falcons used a big run to start the third quarter to pull away in a 79-45 non-district boys basketball victory over Page County on Wednesday night.
Central coach Jeff Whittle said a quick start to the third quarter was a big emphasis for his team at halftime.
“That’s what we’ve been saying at halftime,” Whittle said. “Even (Central senior) Sam (Shifflett) stressed to come out and basically jump on them real quick to start the third quarter and don’t let them get the momentum. So that was huge. We did get the momentum to start the third quarter.”
The Falcons started the third quarter on a 12-0 run, including 6 points from Shifflett. The Panthers made only two baskets in the third quarter, shooting just 13.3 percent (2-for-15) from the field. The Panthers scored only 13 points in the second half.
Shifflett, who had a game-high 21 points, said Central’s defense was the big difference from the first half to the second half.
“When we were in the locker room (at halftime) we were talking about how offensively we were playing great, but defensively we had to pick it up,” Shifflett said. “We came out, got stops on defense and that led to points on offense, which is what our coaches talk about all the time. When we play defense, it leads to great offense for us, and then nobody can play with us.”
The Falcons (3-0) outscored Page County, 20-6, in the third quarter and cruised to the win. It appeared Central might pull away from the start of the game, but the Panthers clawed their way back in.
Central scored the first 6 points of the game, on two Shifflett 3-pointers, and led 26-12 just 39 seconds into the second period.
Page County (0-3) used a 13-4 run to trim the lead to 30-25 with 3:17 left in the first half. Central extended the lead to 41-32 at the half.
“I think we started off hot,” Central senior point guard Jared Patton said. “We played well in the beginning, and then I think we started getting a little too settled with the way we were playing. And then that’s when they went on their run, brought it back to (5) points.”
The Falcons, who reached the Class 2 state semifinals last year, got off to a late start to the season due to the football team’s playoff run and battling a few injuries. Whittle said he feels like the team is starting to catch up on the time missed, and he’s been pleased with the way the team has played, especially offensively.
The Falcons have had balanced scoring in each of their three wins. On Wednesday, Shifflett had 12 rebounds to go with his points, and Patton (13 points, six assists), Dominic Strother (18 points, six rebounds) and Alex Neff (12 points, nine rebounds, four assists) were each in double figures offensively.
Whittle said that outside of the top scorers other players such as Brett Barr, Chase Helsley, Kelan Hoover, and Zeb Dyer are contributing on offense and defense to give the team plenty of depth.
Central lost several players off last year’s team to graduation, but Shifflett said the new players on this year’s team have been key to the team’s early success.
“I think everybody’s stepping up well,” Shifflett said. “The new guys coming up from (junior varsity), they’re all just getting right along with it. There’s little lapses because it’s early, but they’re all playing well. I think us seniors have really stepped up big in leadership roles. And Noah (Williams) he can’t play because of his knee (injury), but he’s doing a great job just helping the team, like helping the younger guys. He’s always giving us pointers and stuff from the bench. He does a great job.”
The Falcons return to action on Monday at home against Shenandoah County rival Stonewall Jackson.
Patton said that he feels like the team is in a good place right now and just needs to keep working hard and improving.
“I feel like we’re pretty good right now,” he said. “I know there’s some more room to improve. We’re not where we want to be. I feel like we’re not content with where we are right now, but we’re settled with where we are. We’re still trying to get better every day and get back to where we were last year.”