By Maurice Patton
MANCHESTER – Columbia Central opened its District 8-AAA road matchup Friday at Coffee County with 18 straight points and closed it by going 13-for-16 from the free throw line in the final two minutes to knock off the host Red Raiders 60-43 and complete a regular-season sweep of the league’s preseason favorite.
“I thought we were locked in mentally,” Lions coach Nick Campbell said after his team improved to 14-6 (5-2). “It seems no one comes in here and plays well. It’s a tough place to play. I hope we never have to come back. If we do what we’re supposed to do, we won’t.”
In its last season as a member of 8-AAA, Central took sole possession of second place – a game ahead of Coffee County (8-7, 4-3) and a half-game behind Tullahoma, whose game Friday against visiting Franklin County was postponed because of a positive COVID test in the Rebels’ program.
Despite the strong start, though, the outcome didn’t come as easily as that early performance may have portended.
The Lions hit three first-quarter 3-pointers and led 20-5 by the end of the period. After a mini-Coffee County rally, they regrouped to score nine of the last 11 points and take a 34-17 cushion.
An offensive drought – which included some sloppy ballhandling – allowed the Red Raiders to get the deficit down to 47-39 with 1:56 remaining on a Hayden Hullett 3, and while Central went without a field goal the rest of the way, the Lions’ good work at the foul line let them seal the deal.
“We’ve been shooting free throws pretty well as a team,” Campbell said. “We’ve got to continue that.
“We start 18-0, 20-2. We’ve got to stretch those (leads) out, instead of letting teams come back and cut it to single digits. But we’re still learning as we go. We’re still playing a freshman, still got some young kids that have to sub. We played well (as a whole). We started really well defensively, but we relaxed.”
Q Martin scored a game-high 20 points to lead Central, with Cam Johnson adding 12; the two combined for five of Central’s seven treys. C.J. Anthony finished with 15 points and Jaxon Vaughn 10 to lead Coffee County.
Long week for Lady Lions: Coming off an overtime loss Tuesday at Shelbyville, things didn’t get any easier for Columbia Central’s girls in their visit to sixth-ranked Coffee County.
The hosts scored 12 unanswered points to start the game and Lipscomb University signee Bella Vinson turned in a game-high 32 points in a 59-28 victory.
Chloe Gannon added 16 points for the Lady Raiders (18-1, 7-0) as the hosts’ height proved too much of a challenge for Central.
“Part of me thinks Shelbyville was worse,” junior guard Josie Parks said, comparing Friday’s result to Tuesday’s 59-54 defeat. “We felt we could win that one, but we were coming off four games in five days.
“We’re having to adjust to (facing) zones. Teams were playing us in ‘man’, and it wasn’t working. We’ve just got to adjust. It’s a process. They both hurt, but we’re going to learn and grow and get better.”
Janiyha Riley scored 10 points to lead Central (15-5, 3-3) offensively.
Columbia Central boys 60, Coffee Co. 43
Col 20 14 6 20 – 60
Cof 5 12 8 18 – 43
Columbia Central (60) – Cam Johnson 12, Demetrius McCoy 1, Q Martin 20, Omari Franklin 6, Bubba Perkins 6, Roni Bailey 6, Jordan Davis 9
Coffee Co. (43) – Tyler Taylor 5, C.J. Anthony 15, Kyle Farless 2, Hayden Hullett 3, Trenton Scrivnor 8, Jaxon Vaughn 10
3-pointers – Columbia Central 7 (Johnson 3, Martin 2, Franklin, Perkins), Coffee Co. 5 (Taylor, Anthony, Hullett, Vaughn 2)
Coffee Co. girls 59, Columbia Central 28
Col 2 7 8 11 – 28
Cof 16 11 18 14 – 59
Columbia Central (28) – Saviya Morgan 2, Ryleigh Hamm 4, Janiyha Riley 10, Ava Sykes 2, Jalei O’Neal 2, Emma Hughes 3, Josie Parks 5
Coffee Co. (59) – Emma Fulks 4, Bella Vinson 32, Elli Chumley 5, Remi Benjamin 2, Chloe Gannon 16
3-pointers – Columbia Central 1 (Hughes), Coffee Co. 1 (Vinson)