CANTON — The third time was the charm for Cleveland Central.
After being swept by Neshoba Central in the regular season, the Wolves came back and beat the Rockets 55-51 in the opening round of the Region 3-5A district tournament Monday night.
Cleveland Central (15-13) advances to the tournament championship game Friday night at 8:30 p.m.
The Wolves will face the winner of the Canton-Holmes County Central game. Regardless of the outcome on Friday, Cleveland Central will host a first or second round Class 5A playoff game next week.
“I was pleased with the way we competed, and I challenged them to show maximum effort. We had nothing to lose because Neshoba had already beaten us twice and I told the guys to leave it out on the court,” said Cleveland Central coach Bernard Berryhill. “We played them much tougher tonight than the previous two times and the outcome showed.”
The first half was filled with turnovers and a lot of defensive stops with Cleveland holding an 8-6 lead at the end of the first quarter before the game was tied 20-20 at halftime.
The second half saw each team take quick leads to begin the third quarter, but Cleveland’s Jaylen McCray scored five straight points to give the Wolves a 29-25 lead and Cleveland clung to a 38-35 edge at the end of the third quarter.
In the fourth quarter, Neshoba tied the game at 43 apiece midway through, but then Cleveland’s Jamal Anderson scored five straight points to give the Wolves a 48-43 lead. His free throw with six seconds left sealed the win.
Anderson finished with a game-high 27 points to lead Cleveland. Jarkevious Johnson added 13 points for the Wolves
“He works really hard at what he does. What you see on the court is a result of his hard work,” Berryhill said. “We’re worried about Friday night, that’s the next game. It’s great we’re hosting a playoff game next week, but Friday is what we are focused on.”
Jacob McMillan had 11 points to lead Neshoba Central. The Rockets (15-6) will now have to fight for the third seed to get into the playoffs. The Rockets will face the loser of the Canton-Holmes County Central game on Friday at 5:30 p.m.
“The boys are going to have to make a bounce back to whether or not to extend their season,” said Neshoba Central coach Jerry Byrd. “We need never really got in any kind of rhythm at all on offense, I don’t think we necessarily came ready to play and we played them Friday and won pretty good, so I think mentally we didn’t really come ready to play. We missed lay ups, free throws, and they just outplayed us.”
Neshoba Central Girls 47, Cleveland Central 46
Hama’ya Fielder had a game-high 27 points to lead the Lady Rockets past the Lady Wolves in the first round of the Region 3-5A tournament.
The Lady Rockets (10-10) advance to the championship game of the region tournament on Friday night at 7 p.m. against the winner of Canton-Holmes County Central.
Regardless of the outcome Neshoba Central will be hosting a first or second round 5A playoff game next week.
“The girls have progressively gotten better all year and its showing at the right time,” Byrd said.