The Rebels, 16-point home-floor losers to Sullivan Central back on the last day of November, returned the favor at the Dickie Warren Dome this go-round, owning the second half and running away to a 68-39 blasting of the Cougars.
This time, South (17-7, 4-3) dominated Central (9-13, 4-3), opening up a 30-point bulge in the second half after leading by just 23-19 at intermission.
“We kind of flipped the switch a little bit in the second half,” said South coach Michael McMeans. “We weren’t making shots in the first half but we talked at halftime about attacking the basket and we did a real good job of that in the second half. We knew if we stayed with it we’d start making some shots.
“The guys had a little chip on their shoulders coming in here from that last game. We know for them that we’re probably their biggest game of the season and it was a great atmosphere tonight. We got a good conference win.”
Up by four after Ben Diamond scored at the first-half buzzer, South blistered the Cougars in the third period, making 9 of 14 shots from the floor and 6 of 7 free throws while committing just two turnovers.
With eight minutes left in the game, South suddenly held a 48-27 advantage.
Hard-working Cole Layne, who led all scorers with 16 points, and powerful pivot Chase Bowery, who scored 15, fueled the third-quarter turnaround.
“We just let them drive past us and refused to step over and take charges,” said Central coach Derek McGhee. “We let them shoot layups.
“Last time we played them our help-side defense was great, but tonight we just didn’t have the same intensity. Not sure what the difference was but they outplayed us in every aspect of the game this time.”
McMeans tried to downplay the revenge factor, but it was certainly present.
“There’s a lot of talk that goes on between the two schools,” he said. “Lots of stuff is said, and I think the kids kind of took it personal from that last game and tonight we came out and really responded.
"We played really good defense, I thought. To hold them to 19 points in the first half and then keep them in the 20s until late in the game, that's was big."
South also got a double-digit game from Gannon Chase, who scored 11.
Trey Rosenbalm had 10 points for Central.
STILL PERFECT IN THREE RIVERS
In a league full of .500 teams — four of them going into Friday’s games — Central’s girls just keep winning every time out.
The Lady Cougars upped their league record to 7-0 with a hard-fought 46-38 win over the Lady Rebels.
“We preached all year that you’ve got to keep your focus,” said Central coach Kristi Walling. “I’m real proud of how the kids have gone through the first round of a very, very competitive conference at 6-0, but I told them yesterday that won’t matter if we come out and go 0-6 in the second half.
“Our theme is ‘Nobody outworks us,’ and tonight in the second half we were better at getting the job done against a team that outplayed us in the first half.’’
Abbey Crawford paved the way for Central (14-9 overall) by pouring in 27 points. The 6-foot-1 junior was honored after the game for topping the 1,000-point career mark over the Christmas holidays.
Macy McClellan backed Crawford with 11 points off the bench.
The game was deadlocked at halftime, but a 7-0 Central spurt to end the third quarter left the Lady Rebels (12-10, 3-4) trailing 37-27 heading into the fourth frame.
South was paced by the 16-point game of Alex Harris.