The Thomas County Central gym reeked of heartbreak and missed opportunities after both Yellow Jackets squads dropped their region play-in games to visiting Hardaway on Tuesday.
The Central boys jumped out to a 12-4 lead in the first quarter and maintained a 20-0 advantage at the half before the Hardaway defense held the Yellow Jackets to just four points in the third and ran away with a 45-36 win.
“We just went flat overall,” boys coach Chad Ward said of his team’s second half performance. “We didn’t have the spark we did to start off the game and just couldn’t overcome some of the miscues we had. That kind of put us in a hole that was a little too deep at the end."
Hardaway guard Justin Crawford stole the show with game high 21 points, including 15 in the Hawks’ runaway second half.
“We just improved our defense; we had to get more movement,” Crawford said. “We got pretty confident after that. As you saw, we were struggling at first. But coach broke everything down [at halftime] and that helped us a lot.”
Ward said his gameplan for Tuesday’s contest consisted of a moderate tempo approach with emphasis on post play. It contrasted from the team’s recent outings, where the Yellow Jackets were hitting three pointers like they belonged in this weekend’s NBA contest.
Central strayed heavily from beyond the arc on Tuesday, connecting for just six. And by the fourth quarter, much of the deep shots were heaved in desperation.
“We had to try and make an adjustment and go to a quicker game to fight our way back in,” Ward said. “We knew we couldn’t afford to play that type of game towards the end yet that’s what we ended up doing.”