BROOKSVILLE- The Central Bears’ boys basketball team has been a solid program for several years under the direction of Head Coach Matt Zandecki. But now they are looking to take the next step. Last season Central finished with a modest 14-13 record in the regular season and were able to play everyone in their tough rank. They want to continue making noise beyond just the 2021-2022 campaign heading into the district tournament. Now the Bears, loaded with an experienced team and four players averaging in double digits, aim to win a district championship and beyond.
“As I coach, I couldn’t be more proud of a team. I really believe it started last year when we couldn’t catch a break and faced such adversity from quarantines, to major injuries to people quitting. We were still able to make the state playoffs and have a very successful season,” Zandecki said. “Over the off season, the team really dedicated itself, sometimes traveling multiple times a week for hours to play better competition. Our three losses have been by a combined four points and one game in overtime. And I think those losses have made us better. I definitely feel that we are peaking at the right time.”
With the improved play of Central’s team, the last several years have brought upon rivalries being built and one of those is against Springstead, a perennially solid team in Hernando County. The Bears faced off against the Eagles three times and lost by a total of five points combined between the matchups. Central lost by scores of 62-61, 67-66 and 44-41. There’s been no doubt that this has been the county’s most entertaining in-county rivalry this season.
“Springstead is always one of our biggest rivalry games even though they are in a class ahead of us. I believe our conference is very tough and for the past two years the conference has either gone through Central or Springstead making our games even bigger. If you look at the last 4 years we’ve had so many classic games that could have gone either way and have played such huge games that it really has become a game you circle on your calendar,” Zandecki said.
“Springstead is one of the top teams in the state so to get that level of competition in your backyard is awesome. We lost two buzzer beaters to them earlier this season. Both times they made great comebacks in the last couple minutes of the 4th including making three free throws with a couple seconds on the clock.”
There’s several reasons why Central has been so good this season, with a record of 19-4 currently, and senior Tre Joyner is one of them. Joyner is averaging a team-high of 18.1 points per game along with 6.4 rebounds, 3.0 assists, and 2.9 steals a contest. Joyner isn’t alone either, as he gets plenty of help around him with DJ Brown (14.4 points per game), Caden Bergantino (12.5 points per game), Braden Joyner (10.5 points per game), and freshman Peter Jackson (9.1 points per game) all contributing.
“Tre Joyner has really elevated his game in all areas. One of our best defenders and has the ability to take the game over offensively. We asked him to be more of a triple double player this year and he responded. An extension of the coach on the floor and one of the top players in the state,” Zandecki said
Andy Villamarzo can be reached at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @avillamarzo.