ANTIOCH, Tenn.—Centennial has proven it can win with Tre Carlton, and in Saturday’s 6-AAA District Tournament game proved it can win without him, too.
Playing without their sophomore point guard, the Cougars kicked it into overdrive to knock off Hunter’s Lane, 74-49, at Antioch High School on Saturday night.
The Cougars got a balanced scoring effort, with contributions from Dusty Williams (18 points), Hayden Pearson (14), Asharri Haynesworth (12), Andrew Ellison (nine) and Isaac Bailey (seven).
Williams had 15 in the second half for Centennial, which trailed by one at the break.
“We all came out slow, but after halftime, we all decided as a team, we should start playing how we played against Franklin and Brentwood. Just give the same intensity,” Williams said.
“That’s what changed the game. That’s how other people got open shots, including me.”
While the Cougars were red-hot from the field for most of the second half, their coach Pete Froedden, credited the Centennial’s defense first.
“In the second half, we held (Hunter’s Lane) to 18 points, which is more of what we need to be this time of year. That’s the piece I’m more proud of that anything.
“The guys found their voice, their toughness, and some of those kinds of things that you want to have this time of year. The first half, we didn’t have any of those things, and so it’s a credit to those guys. They took a challenge and found a way.”
“We played… different defenses, and did some different things that gave us a chance,” Froedden added later. “We don’t do a lot of it, but we did it tonight, and it was effective for us.”
Centennial was down seven when Carlton departed. Bailey, a junior, ran the point for the Centennial most of the rest of the evening.
Froedden said he didn’t know either the nature or the severity of Carlton’s injury.
Kendall Winston scored 22 for the Warriors.
The Cougars completely swung the momentum in the third quarter. Hunter’s Lane led by one at half and it quickly became five, but Centennial punched back quickly.
Haynesworth got a catch-and-score underneath the hoop, then assisted a Williams 3 from the left side to tie the game.
Williams hit a 3 from the same spot on Centennial’s next trip. After the Warriors’ Antonio Lanier hit a foul shot, it was Ellison’s turn to bomb away from deep.
A Pearson steal and fast-break layup, followed by a pair of Bailey foul shots on a Hunter’s Lane technical foul, then, a Haynesworth lay-up, made it 47-37 at the end of the third quarter.
Three-pointers by Pearson, and later Williams, put Centennial up 55-40 with 6:15 remaining.
The lead reached 20 for the first time on a pair of Williams foul shots.
Carlton hit the floor, writhing in pain, with 6:52 left in the second quarter. It appeared to be a shoulder injury. The sophomore was escorted to the locker room immediately.
Centennial trailed 20-13 at the time. That’s when the Cougars’ supporting cast kicked in.
Pearson hit three 3-pointers in the second quarter, the last giving the Cougars a 27-24 lead. Ben Brown’s free throws put the Cougars up four a couple minutes later.
But Winston, who had 17 in the first half, took over down the stretch of the second quarter. He hit a pair of 3-pointers to help Hunter’s Lane take a 31-30 halftime lead.
After four Haynesworth points put the Cougars up 4-2, Froedden went to his bench to get Haynesworth and Williams some rest. Hunter’s Lane promptly went on a 9-3 run to take a five-point advantage.
After Hunter’s Lane’s James Webb drove the right side and threw down a two-handed dunk, Williams came off a screen and drained a 3 just before the first quarter ended. That made the Warriors’ lead 15-11 at the end of the first quarter.
Pearson, a senior, led Centennial with nine in the first half.
“He kept us in it the first half,” Froedden said of Pearson. “He made a couple of 3s in the first half, where we got down and guys were unsure of themselves. … He kind of calmed us and gave us an opportunity to find a voice for the second half.”
Playing without Carlton
The Cougars aren’t a better team without Carlton. The sophomore is a dynamic point guard. He’s good at getting to the rim and dishing to teammates like Pearson and Wiiliams for 3-pointers, or getting Haynesworth looks inside.
Yet on Saturday, there was a 31-point swing from the moment Carlton departed to game’s end.
A trademark of Froedden’s Centennial teams is that they play hard and with passion. Carlton represents that as much as anyone. Williams explained the swing in saying that the Cougars simply played for their fallen teammate.
“At that point, when one person goes down, we all have to step up. We all fought for Tre. At that point, we knew we had to do something special for him,” Williams said.
“I don’t know if it’s about one guy, or anything like that,” Froedden explained, “it’s about guys trying to find their voice in the midst of being in this kind of environment for the first time, for the most of them.
“Could they relax and think and play hard and talk to each other, and deal with the adversity as they see it?”
On Saturday evening, it’s safe to say the Cougars did.
“It was a committee thing. It was fun to watch us figure it out,” Froeden said.
A good day for Williamson County
It was a good day for county schools on the boys’ side of the 6-AAA tournament. Brentwood beat McGavock earlier in the day, and Franklin eliminated Antioch.
Brentwood and Franklin face off in the regional semifinals at 6 p.m. on Tuesday night, Feb. 27.
The winner faces the winner of Centennial and Cane Ridge.
All games are played at Antioch High School.