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CENTRAL HIGH —
Fresh off a monumental 63-46 win at Sterling, Bronchos boys basketball turns its attention to the Empire Bulldogs, who are led by first-year coach Stefan Hunt.
Central High coach John Nease was thrilled with the season-opening road win against a Sterling program that went 27-3 last year. Still, he knows that Empire will play inspired basketball like it did in a 40-25 loss at home against Waurika.
“When you have a new coach coming out, you have some excitement with that,” Nease said. “I expect them to show up, run that solid 2-3 zone defense, and we’ll have to do what we need to do to attack that.”
Nease wants to disrupt Empire’s rhythm on defense, something that Waurika had difficulty doing. Waurika shot just 4 of 22 from the floor in the first half against the Bulldogs.
As the lead changed hands several times in the third quarter, Empire’s downfall came at the hands of the Eagles’ press. The young guards, who only had one full day of practice, struggled to get the ball up the court. Hunt expects the players to be better at avoiding turnovers caused by the press as the season progresses.
“We put in a couple of press-breakers,” Hunt said. “There’s a time to go fast, and there’s a time when not to go fast. My job is to let those kids know that it’s time to go fast. The more times we’re put in that position, the more easy and in control my kids will become.”
While the boys coaches are focused on how fast their teams can get up and down the floor, the girls coaches are focused on how they can stop each others strengths in the half-court.
Empire’s biggest strength against Waurika was its outside shooting. The Eagles only led once in the game, and back-to-back-to-back three-pointers made sure it didn’t last long. The game ended in a 57-48 victory for the Bulldogs. The top shooters, seniors Kaelyn Allensworth and Melaina Yearby, combined for 43 points.
“Our offense is designed to get the ball down the floor quick to those shooters and let them do what they do,” Empire coach Jason Allensworth said. “Of course, getting to the boards offensively and defensively is good too.”
That’s where senior Jessica Carney comes in to play. She had a strong game against the Eagles in the paint, but her competition will stiffen on Tuesday with the arrival of Central High junior Faith Harris. The elder of the two Harris sisters provides a unique matchup for Carney, and the Empire coach thinks it will impact the game.
“They are almost identical to each other as far as their build and height,” coach Allensworth said. “Their style of play, they play aggressive defensively. Especially on the boards, they both crash the boards very well. It’s going to be a matchup that could possibly decide the outcome of the game.”
Central High girls basketball lost its opener at Sterling and will be focused on limiting turnovers on Tuesday. Coach Chad Weldon believes the youth of the team will allow the players not to dwell too much on the loss. Especially since it came to one of the toughest opponents the Bronchos will face.
“They’re the top team in the state, and we’re awful young this year,” Weldon said. “Usually whenever you are young, you don’t have to bounce-back that much. You’re ready to go.”