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Spartans coast into tournament finals

WALLBURG | Once the Central Davidson boys found their rhythm, everything felt like it was in perfect harmony.

The Spartans overcame a little first-period anticipation and coasted to a 79-54 victory over spotty Ledford Thursday night in the semifinals of the NewBridge Bank Christmas Classic Basketball Tournament at Ledford Senior High School.

Central, now 8-2 overall, will face surprising West Davidson in tonight’s championship game at 8 p.m. The Dragons ripped Southeast Guilford 66-49 for their fourth straight victory to advance to the finals.

The Spartans jumped out to an 11-2 lead against the Panthers, but didn’t look particularly efficient in doing so. Ledford, in fact, was able to claw it sway back to trail 19-13 early in the second quarter.

But then, looking to Chris Pompey and John Hanes in the low post, the Spartans went on a 13-2 run to take a 32-15 halftime lead from which the Panthers couldn’t recover.

“We were a little over anxious in the first period,” said Central coach Brian Hege. “We wanted to play so good and so hard we were just anxious.

“But when we settled down in the second period and ran our stuff pretty good,” said Hege. “I told them after the game that I could see we’re getting better collectively because our second group ran our offense as good as our first group.

“We got shots out of our offense — driving the baseline and kicking the corner and it’s really looking good,” said Hege. “We’ve done it two nights in a row now.”

Pompey — who scored his 1,000th career point in Wednesday’s 82-33 victory over South Davidson — dominated the game with 26 points. Hanes, meanwhile, scored 15 of his 22 total points in the first half.

Hege was also pleased with his team’s defense, particularly in the middle periods of the game, limiting the Panthers to just one shot possessions and no 3-pointers while building a 45-19 lead.

“Everything they got was either contested or off the run,” noted Hege. “Plus, we controlled the boards, which was another key to the game.”

Ledford coach Jonathan Leonard said he’s never quite sure which Panther team he’s going to see on a given night.

“There are excuses galore, but Central just outplayed us and outcoached us tonight,” said Leonard, whose team is now 5-6 overall. “They did everything that we didn’t do. We consistently turned the ball over and we can’t play defense if we keep doing that.

“Offensively, we never got into our motion,” said Leonard. “I don’t know, it’s like Jekyll and Hyde. We had a shootaround this morning, got a lot of shots in, and I was worried because we had the bye and Central played last night.

“I told the guys they had to be ready for the speed. We’ve played them twice and we split with them, we know what they do, and we knew Pompey was going to be big,” said Leonard. “We had to try and get second and third chances, and we just didn’t do it.”

Brandon Rothrock paced Ledford with 16 points.

Now Central has to get ready for a West squad that seems to be sizzling right now under first-year coach Derrick Stokes.

“West is playing very good right now and they’ve got confidence,” noted Hege. “We’re going to get tested. If we don’t come tomorrow night, we’re going to get beat. We’ve got to come ready to play.”