By Nathan Hutchinson
Register Sports Editor
It was a struggle, but once again the Indians found a way to dig deep and grind out another victory.
Madison Central trailed by nine points in the first half but fought back to defeat South Laurel, 69-66, Tuesday on Senior Night in Richmond. The Indians’ interior combo of Demarcus George and Sam Jones each had double-doubles and combined for 35 points and 24 rebounds as the Indians (18-9) won despite missing 16 free throws.
“With this team, it’s never going to come easy,” Central coach Allen Feldhaus said. “We’ve just got to find a way to win.”
The Indians have been finding ways to win all season — 11 of their 18 wins this season have been by less than seven points.
And seven of their nine losses have also been by seven points or less.
Against South Laurel (13-14), it was defense and superior post play in the second half that made the difference.
The Cardinals shot 48 percent from the field in the first half and hit five-of-eight three pointers. Jared Grubb had 16 points and hit three three-pointers in the opening half.
Central had three starters with two fouls at halftime — Isaiah Johnson, Jones and Cameron Thomas — and went into the break trailing 37-29.
“We’ve got to win games on the defensive end,” Feldhaus said. “Against Catholic (last week) and Henry Clay (Monday), we held both those teams under 40 percent. That’s our philosophy — hard work and defense. The first half tonight we didn’t have that. In the second half, we did.”
Central limited South Laurel to 37 percent shooting in the second half, including four-of-15 from three-point range. The Indians also forced 13 turnovers for the game, which led to 12 points.
Thomas led the charge for Central in the second half. The sophomore point guard scored just two points in the first half, but had 11 points in the third quarter as the Indians got back in the game.
Thomas scored six-straight points, slashing the Cardinals’ lead to 44-43.
“He played well,” Feldhaus said of Thomas. “He’s going to be a special point guard by the time he leaves here. He’s just got to get stronger. He knows that. He’s got to play better defense. He knows that.”
Moments later, Kirk Humphrey hit a three-pointer to give Central its first lead (46-44) since the first quarter.
Thomas scored the final five points of the period, giving the Indians a 54-51 lead heading into the fourth.
George had three big baskets in the final quarter as Central never surrendered the lead to South Laurel.
George, a senior, was 8-of-12 from the field and had 20 points and 11 rebounds. Jones was seven-of-13 and finished with 15 points and 13 rebounds.
“They are just workers,” Feldhaus said of Jones and George. “That’s the way they have to play because, to be honest, they are not that athletic. Sam isn’t the quickest person in the world and doesn’t jump that well, but he has a big ol’ wide body. He’s averaging a double-double on the year and Demarcus is close (to a double-double). That’s our strength.”
Thomas finished with 16 points and nine rebounds. Johnson had eight points and six rebounds, while Coty Alexander, a senior, and Humphrey had five points each.
Ross Ramsey, Central’s only other senior, had one rebound in 10 minutes of action.
The Indians are set to close out the regular season Friday at Covington Catholic.