STORY BY CHIP CIRILLO | PHOTOS BY WHITNEY JARRELD
Centennial rarely uses a zone defense.
Cougars coach Pete Froedden estimates his team has been in man-to-man defense for 98-percent of the season.
But he used a variety of zone defenses Friday night and they worked perfectly in a 75-62 win over visiting Ensworth, a five-time state champion.
“Well, they’re just so athletic and you just try to keep them in front of you as much as possible,” Froedden said. “We’ve been wanting to work on our zone a little bit and they’re not a league team.”
Point guard Tre Carlton and small forward Dusty Williams led the way with 21 points apiece for Centennial (13-7), which has won six of its last seven.
“We just knew we had to slow them down,” Williams said of the zone. “They’re all just a bunch of athletes, a bunch of strong football players so we just had to slow them down as much as possible.”
Centennial jumped out to a 12-point halftime lead before Ensworth (11-8) rallied to tie the game at 50 with a 23-11 run in the third quarter.
The Cougars reclaimed the lead, but the Tigers stayed close for most of the final quarter.
Ensworth narrowed the gap to 65-62 with less than three minutes left before Centennial closed with a 10-0 run.
“When they got up close, it wasn’t really about pushing ahead. It was about keeping poised and playing our game, not their game,” Carlton said.
Ensworth lost its second straight after winning the previous five.
“Tre was spectacular,” Froedden said. “He had a great floor game today. When he has a floor game like he had today where he has lower turnovers, more assists that puts a lot of pressure on the defense and we’re a hard team to beat.”
Carlton had several impressive assists as he got his teammates involved.
Lewis McDaniel led the Tigers with 23 points, including five 3-pointers over the Cougars’ zone.
Dominic Wynn added 13 and Key Collier scored 11. Keshawn Lawrence, a major-college football prospect at cornerback, fouled out with 38.5 seconds left with seven.
Centennial outscored Ensworth 25-10 at the foul line.
Ensworth coach Ricky Bowers said his team’s shot selection was a bigger factor than Centennial’s zone defense.
“I don’t know of any team anywhere that wins outside-in,” Bowers said. “Inside-out (is better). And we did a much better job as the game progressed. When did we start making traction? When we were going inside. Taking open 3-point shots when the ball is coming from the inside on rhythm just on the arc or just outside the arc, we like that shot. But we don’t like 23- and 24-foot shots that are guarded. We don’t take guarded shots.”
Ensworth visits McCallie on Tuesday.
Centennial hots Summit on Monday.