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BROOKSVILLE — One season after losing 20 games, Central had a chance to establish itself as one of the area’s top teams against Lecanto on Tuesday night.
While the Bears fell short in the 51-50 loss, the home team more than held its own against the perennial playoff contender.
Lecanto (6-0) pressured the Bears early, but thanks to shooting guard Rudy Robinson, Central did a good job breaking the fullcourt press. The senior was a triple threat offensively, handling the ball, distributing and scoring.
“Players like Rudy don’t come around very often,” Central coach Matt Zandecki said. “We’re lucky to be able to have him out there.”
Robinson had a game-high 17 points, seven rebounds, six assists and two steals. He, Joey Stokes (14 points) and Troy Stewart (16 points, eight rebounds) accounted for all but three of the Bears’ points.
Central (4-1) employed its own press and helped turn up the defensive pressure. It worked as the Bears totaled seven steals and took a 42-41 lead with 3:34 remaining.
“We have to turn up the defensive intensity to be a good team,” Zandecki said. “It’s what we’re built around.”
With one final chance to tie and head to overtime, the Bears came up short. The score was 51-48 and Lecanto guard Skylar Summers missed the front end of a one-and-one free throw. After a rebound by Stewart, the ball moved into the hands of Stokes with the clock winding down.
Instead of going for the 3 to tie, Stokes drove for the layup as his teammates and coaches looked on in frustration.
“You can feel the culture changing around here,” Zandecki said. “None of these kids were okay with losing this game, none of them.”