Pirates survive Warren, win eighth game in row

Until the final desperation three-point heave found nothing but air, Drew Central head boys’ basketball coach C.J. Watson said he was unsure of the outcome of Tuesday night’s home game with defending Class 4A, District 8 champion Warren.
As it was, the shot fell harmlessly on the Drew Central Gymnasium court nowhere near the intended destination and the Pirates held on for a 43-41 win that kept DC’s win streak alive and improved the hosts to 13-1 for the season.
“It was kind of a weird game,” Watson said. “I’m not sure what went on. It looked like neither team had played in two weeks—which we hadn’t.
“We were out of shape. We looked a little sloppy. We only had two players score a lot for us—and that’s not us. We didn’t play our best game, by far.”
Usually, Drew Central gets at least two chances to play between Christmas Day and New Year’s Day but with several boys’ teams pulling out of the annual Commercial Bank Southeast Arkansas Holiday Basketball Tournament—and their scheduled game with DeWitt at home last Friday being canceled (Watson said DeWitt administrators just decided not to play)—the Pirates had a full 14 days between their 72-45 win at Crossett on Dec. 19, 2017 and Tuesday.
That could have been a momentum killer, Watson pointed out, and it almost was—until senior Gary Lucas took over.
“He probably had the best 16 minutes he’d ever had in basketball,” Watson said of his 5-foot-10, 170-pound guard. “That was really big. We needed that.”
Lucas, who finished with five made three-pointers and was a perfect 8-for-8 from the free-throw line, netted a game-high 27 points—including 18 in the first half and a 4-for-4 performance from the charity stripe in the fourth quarter when the game was on the line.
The victory was DC’s eighth in a row and kept the record perfect in the Arkansas Activities Association’s “blended” 12-3A4A conference at 7-0. Despite Watson’s desire to finish the last years of the “blended” conference (at least for a while) undefeated and, even with the second “Showdown In M-Town” game with Monticello (which is also a member of 12-3A4A)  looming, the DC coach pointed to the last eight regular-season games on the Pirates’ schedule as being the most important.
Those games are against old 8-3A foes and will determine the seeding for the district tournament, which Drew Central will host Feb. 12-17.
Watson said DC has to maintain its momentum all the way through the 3A State Championships which, according to the latest 3A rankings on MaxPreps.com, Drew Central is the top team to beat.
Games like the one Tuesday will only help prepare his Pirates for that challenge, Watson said. After racing out to a 16-11 lead in the first quarter, DC had to hold on to ward off a hard-charging Lumberjack squad. Warren actually assumed its first lead of the night in the fourth quarter and traded points with its hosts until Lucas’ four free throws gave Drew Central some breathing room.
Still, with 3.1 seconds remaining, Warren had a chance to either tie or win the game. Drew Central’s defense forced a tough shot, however, that was harmlesly off target.  Only six Pirates found the scoring column and none scored in double fugures besides Lucas. The next in line was senior Montiel Daniels with eight points.
Tip off Friday is 5 p.m.

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