Central rally puts away Lexington


Central Davidson’s Chris Pompey dunks against Lexington on Monday at Central. Looking on is Lexington’s Marquell White (23). (Photo by Mike Duprez/The Dispatch)


Several Lexington players were wearing new numbers when they took the court at Central Davidson on Monday.

The Spartans thought it was time for a change, too.

Down nine points with five minutes to play, Chris Pompey and his teammates made every play down the stretch to pull out a thrilling 71-68 victory in an early-season battle atop the Central Carolina Conference standings. Central moved to 4-0, 14-2, while Lexington slipped a game back at 3-1, 6-10.

It wasn’t easy. “I’ma tell you right now, they played good,” Central coach Brian Hege said of the visitors. “People said they couldn’t shoot — they lied.

“We sagged off of them, and I’ll give credit to them, they shot the lights out. We couldn’t do anything with them for three-and-a-half quarters.”

That was an understatement. Nolan Benson’s 3-pointer from the wing late in the first quarter ignited a 9-0 Lexington run that gave the Jackets a 16-8 advantage. That was huge, because it came on the heels of Pompey’s blocked shot that he followed with a mighty two-handed slam dunk to get the raucous home crowd rocking.

Central put together another run to get within 21-20 in the second, but Benson drove baseline for a one-handed slam and that got the Jackets fired up. Mel Covington went on a personal 6-0 run, and Marquell White added a follow shot, to make it 34-26 late in the second. Lexington, despite not playing as well as coach Robert Hairston would have liked, took a 38-30 lead into the locker room.

“I don’t think we took the best shots,” Hairston said. “They weren’t bad shots, but they weren’t falling.

“And the kids were just so hyped up.”

The Spartans opened the second half with another run to cut it to 38-37, but again the Jackets got a little breathing room. They kept Central at bay, and White’s putback with five minutes to go made it 67-58. That’s when Pompey — and little-used reserve guard Jordan Lakey — took over. John Hanes hit Pompey on a give-and-go for a bucket, then Pompey muscled his way in for a score off an offensive rebound. Then Lakey, with the confidence of a proven scorer, drilled a 3-pointer to cut the deficit to 67-65. Moments later, Hanes hit Pompey cutting baseline for a layup, and the Spartans managed to tie things up at 67-67.

Hanes then came through with one of the biggest plays of the night on the other end, stepping in to draw a charge on a driving Daniel Reid Bennett with 1:15 to play. Lakey, who found himself with the ball against Lexington’s pressure defense, went all the way to the rack for a three-point play and the Spartans’ first lead since late in the first period. Pompey blocked Coleman Hayes’ 3-point try from the corner on Lexington’s next possession, and Raekwon Byrd’s free throw with 32 seconds left was all the offense Lexington could manage down the stretch. Andre Baldwin came up with a loose ball in the corner as time was expiring and had a chance at a tying 3, but Pompey suffocated him as the horn sounded.

Hege realized, while he enjoyed beating a team that usually gets the best of the Spartans, they didn’t have much time to enjoy it. Central visits West Davidson on Tuesday in a rematch of the NewBridge Bank Christmas Classic title game, which Central won 60-54.

“By no means does this mean we’re the best basketball team in this conference,” Hege said. “Cause I’ma tell you right now, we play one of the best teams in the conference tomorrow night.”

Pompey led the Spartans with 29 points, while Derek Chavis added 12. Benson paced the Jackets with 14 points, Reid Bennett had 13 and Covington 12. Lexington welcomes Thomasville on Tuesday.

Jason Queen can be reached at 249-3981, ext. 220 or jason.queen@the-dispatch.com.