Little Rock Central earned a signature victory Saturday.
One day after a dominant 80-42 win over Van Buren (4-5), Central faced 6A West power Fayetteville (7-2) in the John Stanton Classic at Buzz Bolding Arena in Conway.
The Tigers rallied in the second half to defeat the Bulldogs, 64-62, snapping Fayetteville's six-game win streak to improve to 8-1.
"Fayetteville has a great program, and they've got a great team this year, so in that sense it's a signature win for our team," said Ross, who coached Baptist Prep to three consecutive state titles before taking over at Central earlier this year. "We try to take it one day at a time, but yes, some games are bigger than others. And this was one of those for us."
Central trailed, 46-38, with 3:51 left in the third quarter, but behind junior guard Jeremiah Jones and senior forward Rajhon McIntosh, the Tigers claimed their fourth consecutive win for new head coach Brian Ross.
Jones scored 22 of his 24 points in the second half; McIntosh added 21 points.
There were 14 lead changes, the last one coming with 40 seconds remaining.
McIntosh came up with a steal at midcourt, leading to a layup for Jones to give Central a 62-61 lead.
"Ray's a dominant scorer, and he's always been a scorer," Jones said. "He does what he does. He gets on the boards, he gets second-chance points. He gets steals."
Sophomore forward Ubong Etim helped the Tigers defensively in the fourth quarter, grabbing a team-high 8 rebounds and holding Fayetteville's post man scoreless for the last four minutes.
"We had a little more focus on defensive rebounding in the fourth quarter." Ross said. "Ubong came up with some big rebounds. We left him in, and he really closed down those defensive rebounds for us."
In addition to this weekend's impressive performances, Central is off to its best start to a season in more than a decade.
"I'm proud of our guys for the 8-1 start to the season," Ross said. "It has been a true team effort. I'm looking forward to getting one percent better with our guys every day for the next two and half months and see what happens."
Central is back in action after Christmas when the Tigers travel to Ardmore, Okla., for the 36th annual Ardmore Holiday Festival Tournament from Dec. 27-29.