CAPITOL HEIGHTS — Although the Central High School boys basketball team might have played its shakiest game of the season, it managed to make all the right plays at the right times to notch the home win, 61-52, over a scrappy Surrattsville team on Jan. 18.
Four players scored in double-digits for the Falcons, who remained in control for the duration of the game. However, their overall performance did not meet the expectations of Head Coach Lawrence Pugh.
“Realistically, we played a bad game,” Pugh said. “We didn’t take care of the ball like we should have. We weren’t aggressive with some of our shooters. Our bigs got in foul trouble early and late off silly fouls.”
Pugh reluctantly attributed the four-day layoff – over which Central did not get a chance to assemble for practice – to the relatively sloppy performance.
“We were making unforced turnovers, missing free throws, we didn’t rotate properly. Even though we were off for four days, that’s no excuse because we in the middle of the season so they should know better than that,” he said. “We got the victory, we’re gonna be happy with that, but we didn’t play a good game.”
Nevertheless, forward Michael Calloway stepped up huge for Central with smart plays at vital points in the game. The big man exhibited exceptional footwork along with a solid mid-range game to finish with game-highs of 17 points and eight rebounds to help the Falcons maintain the lead for most of the night en route to the home win.
“I had to step up because I’m one of the leaders coming back,” said Calloway of his crucial role on the team. Like Pugh, he said the Falcons played far beneath their normal standards despite the victory.
“Honestly, we aren’t playing our best basketball,” said the six-foot-five junior. “We came out lacking. We could’ve played way better than that. That wasn’t us. That was a bad win right there.”
Early on, Surrattsville and Central struggled from the field as the Falcons held a 9-8 lead after the first quarter. At the half, Central led 27-21 after some critical defensive stops at the end of the second.
Devontae Young, who plays a key role as Central’s primary rim protector and rebounder, got in foul trouble early which hurt the Falcons’ post defensive presence in early in the second half.
Surrattsville closed the third quarter with a 4-point play, a defensive stop, and a 3-point play to tie the game 39-39 creating a momentum boost entering the final quarter.
Even though the Hornets looked like they were in a position to take the lead at the top of the fourth quarter, Pugh said he was not concerned. He beseeched his guards to attack the gaps in the defensive zone and told his big men to play aggressively.
“I put my two bigs (Young and Calloway) back in there, and I told my seniors they need to step up.”
Central (9-2) changed their defensive strategy by applying a tight 2-3 zone late in the fourth to seal the deal after seeing Surrattsville was hesitant to shoot from long distance. Thus, the Hornets were forced to take uncomfortable shots and failed to convert on the offensive end in the final three minutes.
Also, in the last few minutes of the fourth, Calloway was able to make some game-clinching defensive plays without fouling as the Falcons concluded the game on a 22-13 run.
“He plays well. [Michael is] strong in the middle, he has a nice jump shot, he can finish around the basket,” Pugh said.
“He has good footwork, he has low-post moves, can hit the mid-range jump shot, and so he played well tonight…I think he played very well. He carried us in the first half. If it weren’t for him, we’d probably lose by like seven.”
For Surrattsville, 6-foot-5 forward Rashaude Ohiokpehai had 15 points, five rebounds, and four blocks. Jakai Washington also scored 15 for the Hornets, who fall to 5-5 with the loss.
Young, generously listed at 6-foot-9, threw down a two-handed flush as time expired to put an exclamation point on the win. The senior forward had 10 points, seven boards and four blocks.
Also contributing for the Falcons was Dominique Mitchell with 16 points and five rebounds and Zyion Kirkland with 12 points and three steals.
Central will head over to Temple Hills to take on Crossland on Jan. 22 at 7:15 p.m.