“They played together,” TC Central head coach Damien Dorsey said. “They did a good job, they worked together and shared the ball and we got the ‘W’ together.”
The Fighting Tigers got on the board first with a Lamar Suttle rebound and putback basket to make it 2-0.
Westminster answered when Rio Roby hit one of his free throws, then Shane Doggett scored two points inside and drew a foul. One of his teammates had to take the foul shot, because he had an open cut on his arm, but the teammate came through for him to make it 4-2.
Crystyle Stockdale hit an off-balance shot inside the lane, then Suttle got two points down low to tie it up at 6-6.
Tervarus Garrett and Dewayne Wallace checked into the game and gave the Fighting Tigers a major shot of energy. Wallace was a presence on defense, while Garrett was pivotal in helping the offense. Wallace came up with multiple blocks, steals and defensive rebounds, including a block that resulted in an offensive basket.
“He’s always a high-energy guy,” Dorsey said of Wallace. “Defense is primary with him. This week we worked on him being aggressive and it shows. We worked on him attacking the gaps and he really did that tonight and got to the free throw line and made some easy baskets.”
With Westminster holding a 10-8 lead, Stockdale hit a floater from the corner to tie it at 10-10 and followed it up with a steal and an easy two points to retake the lead 12-10. By the end of the first quarter, TC Central held a slim 15-14 lead.
There wasn’t a whole lot of offense in the second quarter; Stockdale hit a 3-pointer to give TC Central a 22-18 lead. Garrett followed it up with a driving shot from the corner for two points to leave the score at 24-18 at the half.
The third quarter was also low in scoring figures, although Westminster’s Jacob Welch started to find his 3-point stroke and kept Westminster in the game after they fell behind 31-20 to cut the lead to 31-23. The team hit another basket to end the quarter with the score 31-25.
TC Central was plagued in the third quarter by a rash of injuries. First, Cedric Garrett had to be helped off the court, then Frankie Pedroza hurt his ankle and had to leave the game and finally, Stockdale was shaken up by a collision with a Westminster player. Both Pedroza and Stockdale would return in the fourth quarter.
“We started dropping like flies,” Dorsey said. “We lost three straight players, but luckily those guys on the bench are just as good as the starters and everybody knows that. They competed this week in practice and it shows, because they were able to step in at a moment’s notice and get it down.”
Welch again connected from 3-point range twice early in the fourth quarter to cut TC Central’s lead to 37-34.
Moments later with TC Central ahead 39-34, Stockdale nailed a clutch shot from the corner to give TC Central a 41-34 lead. After a Chason Anderson free throw, Westminster responded with a 3-pointer to make it 42-37.
Once again, Stockdale made a clutch basket, scoring with an off-the-glass shot to give TC Central a 44-37 lead.
After Westminster made two free throws to cut it to 44-39, Stockdale closed the door with two straight baskets, including one that started off a Wallace block. When the initial shot missed, Stockdale grabbed the rebound and hit the putback shot to seal the game at what was eventually the final of 48-39.
Stockdale finished as the game’s leading scorer with 21 points.
Dorsey said that Stockdale has put in a lot of hard work, which enabled him to be the clutch player he showed during the game.
“From the very beginning all the way up until now, he’s developed and he’s getting along,” Dorsey said. “I’m very proud of him, because he’s put the work in himself and dedicating himself. He stays after practice maybe an hour or two just shooting. He’s put the work in. All the dedication and improvement he’s shown showed up tonight because a month ago he wouldn’t have taken those big shots and he’s taking them and knocking them down.”
With the win TC Central will play Winterboro at Winterboro on Monday at 7 p.m.