Opponents facing Central can settle for jump shots all they want. They can run pick-and-rolls, motion sets and off-ball screens at their leisure.
But anyone venturing into the paint better take heed. Javani Brown lurks under the basket — all 5-foot-9 of him.
“If you’re coming to my place,” Brown said, “you’re not leaving the block untouched.”
Brown didn’t choose to be a 5-9 power forward. In fact, he resisted the idea when Central Coach Lawrence Pugh brought it up last season. Brown played guard his whole life, and that’s the way things should remain, he thought.
But few forces can alter hearts and minds like winning. As Central upped its win total from four in 2014-15 to 15 last year, its second-shortest player morphed into the biggest, baddest paint dweller on the team.
“I’m not scared of nobody,” Brown said. “I don’t care if you’re 6-11, 6-12, I’m going to still come out and play the same way, like it’s my last game.”
That fearless mentality from Pugh’s “junkyard dog” has rubbed off on Central’s senior-laden roster this season. The unbeaten Falcons (9-0) are harnessing all their perceived slights and unleashing their pent-up fury on the rest of Prince George’s County.
Central’s breakout season gained traction on Dec. 7. The Falcons were originally slated to face area power Potomac (Md.) on Jan. 13, but despite efforts to avoid it, the game got bumped up to the first week of the season. Pugh’s unheralded bunch would have no time to ease into their groove against a Potomac squad returning all five starters, not to mention the addition of 6-7 DeMatha transfer Christian Dyches.
The Falcons were undaunted. They trailed by 10 midway through the fourth quarter, but their guard-heavy lineup sped up the pace, and Timothy Jones (game-high 23 points) led four Falcons in double figures to help them cinch a 75-74 upset on the road.
Pugh knew it right then: His boys were ready for something special.
“It stamped my thoughts, it stamped my feelings about what I have on my team this year because we could have easily folded with four minutes to go in the game,” Pugh said. “But they kept fighting.”
Central still has a ways to go to prove it’s no longer a pushover in the Prince George’s 3A/2A/1A division. Showdowns against Douglass, Largo and Gwynn Park loom in the coming weeks. Douglass stomped the Falcons by 23 points last year, so Brown says “we really have something coming for them.”
With so much talent and chemistry bubbling on their roster this season, Brown and company could have simply aimed to repeat the region title they won three years ago. But if they really wanted this season to resonate, the Falcons knew they needed to aim higher.
“The message was Comcast,” Brown said, in reference to Maryland’s Comcast Center, the site of the state semifinals and finals. “We all want to go to Comcast for our last year and put Central on the map.”
Margin of victory in the Oxon Hill girls’ 95-3 romp over Surrattsville on Friday. Surrattsville’s only points came on three free throws in the first quarter. Prince George’s County has seen a number of similarly lopsided results already this season.
G Briel Palmer, Parkdale, Sr.
The shifty playmaker dropped a season-high 39 points in Tuesday’s 79-52 romp over Suitland, then registered 20 points and five assists in Friday’s 89-31 blowout against Northwestern.
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