Deep Chargers look for more consistency

Published 11:02 am Wednesday, December 28, 2016

The Central High School varsity boys basketball team carries a 2-5 overall record through seven games this season.

“We haven’t played as well as we could,” Chargers Head Coach Mike McGrath said. “Two of those games we should have won.”

One of those games he referred to was on Dec. 5 against visiting Carver College and Career Academy, a team which he said was much-improved from last season.

“But we had an 8-point lead at halftime,” he said. “We had a 12-point lead at one point during that game and we squandered that lead and let them beat us by five at home. That shouldn’t happen.”

The next day, Central went on the road and fell 69-59 to Buckingham County High School.

“Buckingham’s always competitive and well-coached, but we had a 6-point lead with a minute to go in the third quarter, and we couldn’t hang onto that lead,” McGrath said. “We let them take a 12-point swing on us, and then of course, they hit their free throws down the stretch in that one and pulled away and beat us. So, I felt like …  we should have got some W’s out of those two.”

The coach said that a big part of the reason the Chargers have gotten off to a slow start this season is lack of time to prepare, since some of his players were also members of the school’s successful varsity football team that made it to the second round of the regional playoffs, extending play beyond the 10-game regular season.

“I had 10 guys playing football,” McGrath said. “So when football ended, we had three practices and we’re playing games, and we had another practice, and we had three games in a row. So, that’s a tough way to start.”

The coach indicated that his team has started to come around, though, playing quite well in its last two outings.

In its most recent game Dec. 16, Central lost 55-48 to host Bluestone High School, and two days before that, the Chargers routed visiting William Campbell High School 75-54.

“We played really well against William Campbell, got a big win there,” McGrath said. “And then we went down to Bluestone, which is a really hard place to play, and we were tied with two minutes to go and we got cold in the last two minutes and couldn’t get a basket or a foul to go our way. But we played pretty well, so I’m hoping we can continue that.”

The Bluestone game illustrated the streaky shooting that McGrath said he has seen from his team thus far this season and hopes it can eliminate.

In terms of positives, the coach said, “I think we’re pretty good in transition this year.”

He praised the Chargers’ defensive intensity, which he said they’ve stepped up in the last few games, including forcing 22 turnovers against William Campbell, which helped them pile up points in transition.

McGrath also said he likes that he can go pretty deep into his bench this season without having any drop-off in athleticism on the floor.

Junior point guard L.J. Watson, junior small forward Darryl Jones and senior center Raymond Alexander have been Central’s top scorers so far this year.

Against William Campbell, Watson scored 25, Jones had 14 and Alexander added 11.

“If they’re all in sync on the same night, we’ll be tough to beat,” McGrath said.

Central is not done playing yet for 2016. It returned to the hardwood Tuesday to begin participation in a Christmas Classic at Rustburg High School.

On Tuesday, the Chargers faced the host team, a good Virginia High School League Group 3A school that McGrath said would be a big test for them.

A rematch with William Campbell awaits Central on Wednesday at Rustburg, with the tip-off set for 5:30 p.m.

McGrath said it would be “a good opportunity to earn some power points with those two games.”

After that, the Chargers host Goochland High School at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 4, and visit undefeated Amelia County High School at 7 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 6.

“If we can come back and play strong against those two teams, then I feel like we’ll be in good shape,” McGrath said. “Right now, as far as the conference seedings are set, we’re still in the hunt for the top four seeds in that, so that’s why I want to get positioned really well for that.”