But that moment proved to be fleeting.
The Lady Cougars held Morristown West to three points in the first five minutes of the contest before the Lady Trojans roared to life with a devastating 28-4 run en route to a 72-36 victory.
Central’s 2-3 zone stymied the Lady Trojans early on and allowed the Lady Cougars to build a 7-3 lead while controlling the pace of play.
But once the shots started dropping for West, the Lady Trojans were able to set up in their full-court pressure, force a flurry of turnovers and build a commanding lead.
“They had a couple of different presses, half-court traps and they doubled out of their man defense,” Central coach Gary Surcey said. “It’s relentless. They’ve got good speed and good size — they’re a complete team.”
The pressure not only forced Central to commit 20 turnovers, it also forced the Lady Cougars to rush shots once they did get the ball over the midcourt line as West’s defenders seemed to be flying all over the court.
The Lady Cougars trailed by just two heading into the second quarter, but that’s when Taylor Hall came to life.
The Class AAA Miss Basketball finalist was limited to one point in the first quarter, but she opened the second by hitting three straight 3-point shots to turn an 11-9 advantage into a 20-9 lead.
“Early on, they missed some shots and we were right there,” Surcey said. “But (Hall) hit a couple of 3s.”
West went on to outscore Central 22-4 in the period, building a commanding 20-point lead at the break. The Lady Trojans eventually pushed their lead to 39 points in the fourth quarter before coasting to the finish line.
Hall finished with 26 points and Megan Fanney added 13 for West. Allison Jones and Kelley Smith chipped in with 11 each.
Jacqueline Kestner scored 13 to pace Central.
Entering Friday’s contest, the Lady Trojans had been outscoring their opponents by nearly a 2-to-1 margin in the first quarter, so West coach Johnny Galyon was puzzled by his team’s slow start.
“We were real sluggish,” he said. “I didn’t think we performed up to caliber. This group has played in really big ballgames, so the coaching staff was surprised.
“But we hit a couple shots and Taylor got hot. There’s no style points this time of year.”
West (29-1) advanced to face crosstown rival Morristown East in the regional semifinals. It will mark the fourth time the teams have played this season.
Central finished its season 18-13.