It just battles back and wins.
Such was the case Thursday when the Lady Warriors fell behind early but rallied to take a 58-55 win over Abingdon and earn the Mountain 7 District regular-season championship in the process.
The victory gave two-time defending state champion Central (18-4, 11-1) its third straight district championship.
With the title, Central earned the No. 1 seed in next week’s district tournament that will be played on its home court.
The Lady Warriors also earned the Mountain 7’s automatic bid to the Region 2D tournament in two weeks.
EARNING A TITLE
Veteran Central coach Robin Dotson said winning the Mountain 7 trophy carries as much weight as winning the state title after running a district gauntlet that includes Class 3 and Class 2 powers Abingdon, Ridgeview and Union.
“Winning this, it’s harder than winning a state championship,” Dotson said of his team taking the Mountain 7 crown. “It’s Murderers’ Row going through this conference.
“My kids are winners. And going back to right after we’ve consolidated, we’ve had great leaders, year after year after year. And I’ve got wonderful leaders again this year.”
Brook Porter, one of the smallest players on the floor, stepped up big for Central by showing her leadership.
The senior finished with a game-high 21 points.
Abingdon (15-7, 9-3) jumped ahead early, building a 15-6 lead with 2:21 to play in the opening quarter. But, true to form, Central never panicked.
“When we let ourselves get down, we don’t freak out about it,” said Porter. “If we get down a good amount of points, we just have to work our way back. It’s not all got to happen at once. We all know just to keep our cool and work our way back up.”
A loss by Central would have forced a playoff with Abingdon to determine the district’s top seed, but Porter said losing to the Lady Falcons again was not in the Lady Warriors’ plans.
“We’ve been looking forward to this game all week because we wanted redemption,” said Porter. “We lost to them earlier in the season. We knew we didn’t play our best game that night, and we knew we had to come hard and play because they’re a good team.”
After Abingdon’s scoring run to start the game, Central cut the lead to 15-12 by the end of the first quarter and reduced the Lady Falcons’ advantage to 29-28 by halftime.
The third quarter belonged to Central.
The Lady Warriors used their defense to score points with their transition offense.
Forcing three straight Abingdon turnovers, the Lady Warriors scored the first eight points of the quarter to build a 36-29 lead.
Central never trailed again.
MAKING IT FUN
Abingdon kept the game tight and had its chances to regain the lead late in the contest.
The Lady Falcons cut the lead to two points three times in the final six minutes, including 57-55 on a 3-pointer from Emily Breeding with 20 seconds left in the game.
Dee Cvetnich, who finished with 11 points and eight rebounds, hit one of two free throws with six seconds left to end the scoring.
Abingdon had a chance to tie the game, but a 3-point attempt was off the mark.
Hannah Carter was the third Central player to finish in double-figure scoring with 14 points.
Abingdon got 17 points from Blevins and 12 from Breeding.
BELCHER LEADS ABINGDON BOYS
Zeren Belcher scored 19 points, while Jake O’Quinn added 11 to lead Abingdon (5-7, 11-12) to a 63-54 win over Wise Central in the boys’ contest.
Tyler Vanover paced Central with 19 points, while Bryson Collins scored 10 for the Warriors (13-9, 6-6).