In the second half, the CCHS defense scored multiple points in transition following steals in gaining the upper hand over the Bulldogs.
Leading 37-35 with a little more than three minutes remaining in the third quarter, CCHS turned two quick steals into layups by Dontrell Brown to quickly extend the CCHS lead to 41-35.
White Castle clawed its way back, though, to take the lead, 42-41, on a dunk by White Castle’s Deandre Bellock.
Both teams battled back and forth with neither team taking more than a three-point lead until CCHS gained it for good on a Nick Case bucket in the fourth quarter.
While White Castle responded with a basket by Jerrain Jenkins, CCHS closed out the game with a free throw by Tyler Hoffpauir, who made the first but missed the second. However, CCHS got the offensive rebound and Hoffpauir scored on an assist by Josh Singleton for a 56-52 lead with about two minutes left.
The Eagles scored its final bucket on a Lloyd Grogan dunk following a steal with about a minute left.
Grogan led the CCHS offense with 20 points and eight rebounds.
“I thought we played really, really good defense down the stretch in the second half, especially after they came back and took the lead,” Case said of his squad, who was playing its fifth game in six days. “After that point I thought we defended phenomenally the rest of the game.”
On the opposite side, while White Castle coach Ronald Johnson said CCHS played well, he said his squad didn’t, citing not getting to the free throw line enough and missing when they did get there, turnovers and second chance shots for Central Catholic, among other reasons.
“(It’s) the little things you got to do to win basketball games,” Johnson said. “We took one charge all night long. We should have (had) at least eight charges here tonight. We go up one point, and we cannot protect the basketball for a good shot.”
CCHS and White Castle both kept in close in the beginning with CCHS taking its largest lead of the first half at 11-6, on a free throw by Lamar Grogan with 2:15 remaining in the first quarter.
The rest of the half, neither team could pull away from the other as CCHS went into halftime with a 28-25 lead following a Singleton three-pointer near the buzzer.
Joining Grogan in double figures were Singleton and Brown with 12 points apiece.
Brown recorded a double-double with 10 rebounds as well as two assists and two steals, while Singleton added six rebounds, two assists and two steals.
Other CCHS contributors included Hoffpauir with seven points and four rebounds; Kendall Robinson with four points and five rebounds; and Case with two points, two rebounds, a steal and an assist.
Despite the win, the Eagles struggled at the free-throw line, converting just seven of 15 attempts.
“We shoot more free throws than anybody in the country,” Case said. “For some reason we don’t make them unless we absolutely have to. As a coach, I never want to miss a free throw, but it’s something we work on; the kids are conscious of this. We just got to make them.”
Jenkins led White Castle with 29 points, while Isaac Obear added eight.
Case said he and Johnson have been playing this early season matchup for about five years to gauge how well each team is playing at this time of year.
“I want to see where we’re at in December, see what we need to work on, see what we need to get better at so hopefully, in a couple months, we are playing in the Top 28 again,” Case said.
Despite the win, Case knows that his team must continue to improve. During last year’s regular season matchup, the Eagles beat the Bulldogs.
However, the Eagles ended up losing to Southern Lab in the quarterfinals. White Castle beat Southern Lab in the finals.
It’s possible down the line that these two teams could meet again in a playoff game.
“This game here is important, but it’s not more important than the next one’s going to be (against Central Catholic),” Johnson said. “The next time we play these guys will be more important than this game. This is a measuring stick to see what we have to do the next time, and we’re going to grow from this.”