Doug Bibby likes the makeup of his Central High School boys’ basketball team, though he admits a go-to player has yet to emerge.
“I love the balanced scoring,” the coach said. “Some teams have guys that put them on their shoulders and you let them go. We don’t really have guys with that type of personality. But they all can do something special for the squad.
“We beat to everyone’s drum.”
The Yellowjackets showcased their balance and grit Tuesday and picked up another victory that could lead to a top-20 state ranking.
Brandon Johnson scored 18 points and joined three teammates in double figures as Central beat Pleasure Ridge Park 66-62 in a second-round game of the Republic Bank Louisville Invitational Tournament at Valley.
A week after beating Manual — the No. 3 team in The Courier-Journal’s Litkenhous Ratings — the Yellowjackets (9-4) backed it up with a victory over No. 9 PRP. Central also has two wins over Male and another over Bullitt East.
“It was big because a lot of people don’t really believe in us,” junior guard Brandon Wells said. “We have to prove a lot of people wrong. We put a lot of work in practice every day so we can be the best team.”
Wells, a transfer from Waggener, scored 15 points. Dai’Von Thompson (11 points, six rebounds, three assists) and Devin Firman (10 points) also had big nights as Central advanced to face the winner of Wednesday’s Trinity-St. Xavier game in Friday’s 8:45 p.m. quarterfinal.
Drew Glass had 17 points and 11 rebounds to lead 2014 LIT champion PRP (12-4), which couldn’t overcome foul trouble. Richard Gaines had 14 points, four rebounds, three assists and three blocks but was limited to 21 minutes and fouled out with 1:24 left. Point guard Khalid Raheem fouled out with 4:08 left in the third quarter, and reserve Hunter Stevenson fouled out in the final seconds.
“At lot of teams could have weathered that storm because they have experience on the bench,” Panthers coach Dale Mabrey said. “This happens to be a year for us where we have youth there.”
The Panthers led 35-33 at halftime and took their biggest lead, 57-47, on a pair of Stevenson free throws with 6:28 remaining.
But Central answered quickly, getting back-to-back 3-pointers from Wells and Derron Douglas and a basket from Johnson to make it 57-55 at the 5:29 mark.
Johnson drove the lane and scored to give Central a 61-60 edge with 3:30 left, and Wells followed with a basket for a 63-60 lead at the 2:36 mark.
Meanwhile, with Raheem out, Mabrey said his team struggled against Central’s defensive pressure.
“With (Raheem) in there, they were having a hard time stopping his penetration,” Mabrey said. “Then you’re going with a freshman point guard who hasn’t been into that kind of pressure yet.”
Wells’ free throw gave Central a 64-62 lead with 22.7 seconds left. After PRP’s Greg Davidson missed a shot to tie, Johnson scored on a run-out layup the Yellowjackets’ 19-5 game-ending run.
Bibby said the victory was extra special because of the respect he has for Mabrey and his staff of assistant coaches.
“We had to outwork them and play with more chemistry at the end of the game, and I think that gave us the advantage” Bibby said. “If you do that against a Mabrey team, you have to pat yourself on the back a little bit.”
Jason Frakes can be reached at (502) 582-4046 and followed on Twitter @kyhighs.
Central (9-4) – Wells 15, Gober 1, Davis 4, Johnson 18, D. Firman 10, Brown 2, Douglas 3, Gaines 2, Thompson 11.
PRP (12-4) – Raheem 2, Stevenson 12, Cranford 6, Gaines 14, Davidson 11, Glass 17.
3-point goals – Wells 2, D. Firman, Douglas; Stevenson 2.