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Central-Phenix City Girls Beat Opelika for Area 7 Title
Sunday, Feb. 12, 2012
Jeff Henderson

Central-Phenix City used a 12-2 run in the middle of the third quarter to create some breathing room against an aggressive Opelika team Saturday before hitting free throws down the stretch to secure a 57-48 victory and a third consecutive 6A Area 7 championship title.
Central coach Carolyn Wright knew coming into the game that Opelika would play a tough man-to-man defense and that defense caused the Lady Red Devils some problems in the first half.
“We knew it wasn’t going to be easy, we knew Opelika was going to be a good team,” Wright said. “We knew they weren’t going to come over here and lay down. We knew they were going to make things difficult for us.”

Part of that difficulty was the defensive pressure Opelika put on Central’s leading scorer B’Kiya Webb. Webb had six points in the first half but the inability of her teammates to make plays from Webb’s passes bothered Wright a bit.
“We knew they were going to be running three people at her so we told her to pass the ball off,” Wright said. “A couple of times (her teammates) weren’t ready for the passes and we missed some easy shots down on the glass. We had to make some adjustments with them trying to shut her game down.”

Webb finished with 15 points, nine rebounds and 7 blocks in the game, earned the tournament’s MVP award and really, really likes going against a man defense. “I like the man-to man,” she said. “It helps us spread the floor and then I can just go to work. I feel like man-to-man is easier. It opens up the floor and then you can just see the basket. A lot of teams try to play us man-to-man but they just can’t do it.”

The Lady Red Devils were more aggressive in the third quarter, something Wright said they talked about during intermission.
“We learned that we’ve got to move to the ball,” she said as got a congratulatory hug from

her husband. “We’ve got to penetrate and take them to the glass. We learned that we don’t have to pick up our dribble just because there is a defender. We made those adjustments and we found the open man and we hit some shots.”

Yasmine Thomas, who hit six free throws in the fourth quarter to help preserve the win, and Erika Lane each hit a 3-pointer in the third quarter that seemed to take some of the steam out of Opelika.

The second quarter began with each team turning the ball over twice and Wright thought some nerves played a part for her team.
“It’s a championship game and everybody gets afraid to shoot and doesn’t relax,” Wright said. “We were actually rushing it and we didn’t need to rush it. We just needed to settle down and run our offensive game.”

Bethany Howard led Opelika with 17 points in spite of Wright’s pleas and instructions to find her on the floor at all times.
“We were supposed to know where she was at every moment but at times we got away

from it,” Wright said about Howard. “Twenty-three (Howard’s number) looks like a player that just can’t get the job done, but she can. We had to make a conscious effort to find her. I had to call a timeout and tell them that 23 is killing you because you don’t know where she is all the time. Once we made that adjustment it changed their offense and they
struggled some.”

The victory was the 30th win this season for Central, a surprise for Wright. “I didn’t know we were going to win 30,” Wright said, acknowledging the loss of two Division I post players from last season. “I also didn’t know we were going to beat teams by 25 and 30 points the way we did all season long. I knew we would be competitive, and I knew teams weren’t going to beat us by 30 points like we did last year.”

Webb was joined on the all-tournament team by Howard and Gabby Clifton from Opelika. Sierra Booker from Smiths Station, Auburn’s Brittney Strozer and Central teammates Thomas and Jimechia Banks also made the team. Joining Webb on the all-tournament team from Central were Yasmine Thomas and Jimechia Banks.

They will host the loser of Monday’s Enterprise-Northview game on Thursday.
Saturday at Central
Opelika 11 9 5 23--48
Central 16 7 18 16 – 57
Opelika (48)
Bethany Howard 17, Gabby Clifton 9, Garner 9, Savage 5, Callaway 1, Adams 3, Chatman 1, Williams
Central (57)
Watkins 4, Banks 3, B’Kiya Webb 15, Yasmine Thomas 14, Glance 1, Lane 8, Shanks 3, Beasley 9
Team records: Central 30-1, Opelika 23-5. Next game: TBD for both.