The Bulldogs remained undefeated in the area and handed the Fighting Tigers their first area loss of the year. Neither team can rest easy though, as the teams will square off again Monday in the Talladega County Tournament.
“There was a lot of good and bad by both teams, but somebody had to win the game,” said Winterboro head coach Sheroderick Smith. “TC played with a lot of pride, but our guys are beginning to play for each other. Josh ( Taylor) had a heck of a game and our bench came in with some good minutes. It was a good game for us.”
Taylor led the Bulldogs with 31 points and eight steals. The senior credited the home crowd with giving the team the push it needed.
“One of our goals was to make the game sell out,” he said. “With a sell out crowd, we felt like we had to perform. Coach Smith did a great job all week keeping us prepared. He’s one of the best coaches that ever came through here.”
Nick Leonard put up 22 points and four assists for Winterboro ( 610, 5- 0), shooting 6- for- 11 from beyond the arc. Damian Simmons chipped in 11 points and eight rebounds.
Damian Staples led the Fighting Tigers ( 10- 5, 4- 1) with 23 points, 15 of which came in the third quarter. Tevin Garrett added 15 and Kendarious Swain had 14.
TC Central head coach David Wright told his players to keep their heads up after the loss.
“It’s not the last game,” Wright said. “We’ve got a chance to still achieve all our goals and we just have to keep our heads up. We play them again Monday. We’ve got a chance to quick some quick redemption. Winterboro shot the
ball well tonight. The outcome of the game was based on second- chance opportunities. We’re going to make some adjustments and go back to work.”
By the end of the first quarter, TC Central had built a 25- 21 lead.
The Bulldogs fell behind by six twice in the second quarter, but closed out the half with an 8- 1 run.
A 3- pointer from Justin Garrett and another from Leonard brought Winterboro within one point at 39- 38, and Simmons’ basket with one minute remaining gave the Bulldogs a 40- 39 lead at the break.
Taylor scored 14 of Winterboro’s first 16 points of the third quarter as the game remained tight.
Thanks to Staples and Tevin Garrett, TC Central went on a 7- 2 run to take a 50- 46 lead midway through the period.
Winterboro regained the lead at 54- 53, but the Tigers responded quickly.
A 7- 0 run gave the Fighting Tigers a 64- 56 advantage in the closing minutes of the third quarter.
And just as it felt like the game was going to swing TC Central’s way, Leonard hit a 3- pointer from a difficult angle at the buzzer, cutting the lead to 66- 62.
Winterboro went on a 9- 2 run early on in the fourth quarter to take a 71- 68 lead, but the Fighting Tigers responded with a 7- 0 run.
With 1: 45 remaining in the game, TC Central lost the lead for good on another 3- pointer from Leonard. Simmons added one more a minute later, and Taylor’s layup put the nail in the coffin with under 30 seconds to go.
Taylor said he’s looking forward to Monday’s rematch.
“We’re coming out to win,” he said. “You always want to beat a rival. I know they’re going to be hungry for revenge. We just need to play better than we did tonight.”
Smith expects Wright and the Fighting Tigers to come out with a vengeance.
“When TC plays Winterboro it doesn’t matter… it could be in lacrosse — they’re going to play to beat us,” he said. “And that’s how it should be. You want a good friendly rivalry, and that’s what community is all about. I honestly feel this rivalry is the best in the county.”