BRIDGEPORT -- There's more than a little bit of showman in Central point guard Tyler Ancrum.
Whether it's signaling to the crowd following a buzzer-beating 3-pointer or spinning to the hoop on his signature acrobatic layup, the junior can dazzle at any given moment so long as the ball is in his hands.
Late in the fourth quarter, with Central trying its hardest not to let a one-time 16-point second-half lead evaporate against city rival Bassick, the Hilltoppers needed Ancrum to be more than simply a flashy ballhandler -- they needed him to be a leader.
Ancrum responded, scoring four consecutive points late in the fourth quarter right when all the momentum appeared shifted toward Bassick, ensuring the Hilltoppers came away with a 69-61 win in front of a lively crowd at Reilly Gymnasium.
"I just wanted to go out there and play the best I can, the only way to do it is to work hard," said Ancrum, who scored a game- and season-high 24 points. "The team was getting tired. We didn't have a lot of subs, we hung in there."
Hung in there is the best way to put it for Central, which went ahead 57-41 on a 3-pointer by Ancrum late in the third for its biggest lead.
The Lions then cranked up the pressure in the fourth quarter, sending wave after wave of fresh players at the Hilltoppers who had numerous players coping with the flu, forcing them into four quick turnovers.
Bassick (8-4) scored the first five points of the fourth, quickly cutting the Central lead to single digits at 57-48 on a free throw by Donald Young.
A layup in traffic by ShaQuan Bretoux (19 points) stopped the Bassick momentum, briefly. Bassick kept coming. A 3-pointer by Devan Bramwell with under four minutes left got Bassick to 61-57.
"We didn't quit," Bassick assistant coach Bernie Lofton said. "I was impressed by the guys, no matter what, in the huddle nobody was dogging it. We rotated nine guys, everybody played and nobody pouted."
Bassick got back into it by pounding Central on the offensive glass, scoring the bulk of its points on put-backs or from the line after being fouled under the hoop. The Lions finished with 27 offensive rebounds, led by Carl Brown's eight. Demetrius Young paced a balanced Bassick attack with 12 points.
Two free throws by Anthony Brown with 2:49 left kept Bassick's deficit at four, but that's when Ancrum stepped up, first darting to the hoop for a floating finish. He followed it with a pair of free throws making it 67-59 -- enough of a margin for the Hilltoppers to see out the final 90 seconds.
"Tonight, the last three or four minutes (Ancrum) had to suck it up," Central coach Barry McLeod said. "He's our primary ballhandler and they were double-, triple-teaming him. The only way to rest him was to get a timeout."
Central scored only three field goals in the fourth and played the final four minutes without talented sophomore Marcus Blackwell, who fouled out.
Ancrum, who is cousins with Bassick starter Kobe Ancrum, left the Lions more than impressed.
"We're fast, but Tyler is lightning fast," Lofton said. "Nobody shreds our pressure like that. He played an outstanding game."
Central (7-3) shrugged off back-to-back sluggish performances against Staples and Westhill -- both losses -- and started hot from the outside. Jahdeh Summerville sunk the Hilltoppers' first 3-point attempt, setting a tone for the game where they finished over 50 percent from beyond the arc.
Tyler Ancrum scored 10 points in the second quarter, included a 3-pointer during a 7-0 run that ultimately gave the Hilltoppers the cushion they'd need.
The second quarter was also punctuated by a powerful flat-footed dunk by Bassick's Dale Kirkland in traffic that brought down the house.
"We hung on," McLeod said. "We built up an early lead in the early rounds and out-pointed them at the end. We hung on without getting hit with a haymaker and getting knocked out. We made just enough shots to win the game."
Curhone Baldwin 2 0-3 4 Kobe Ancrum 2 2-2 6 Devan Bramwell 3 0-0 9 Donald Young 1 6-8 8 Carl Brown 4 1-2 9 Anthony Brown 2 3-4 7 Dale Kirkland 2 2-2 6 Demetrius Young 4 2-2 12 Totals: 21 16-25 61
Jahdeh Summerville 1 0-0 3 DeAndre Daniels 1 0-0 2 Shaquan Bretox 6 5-10 19 Antoin Pettway 3 0-0 6 Tyler Ancrum 9 3-3 24 Marcus Blackwell 4 0-0 8 Ricky Grant 1 5-6 7 Totals: 25 13-19 69
BASSICK 16 16 11 18--61
CENTRAL 20 19 18 12--69
3-pointers: B--Bramwell 3; C--Summerville, Bretox 2, Ancrum 3
Fouled out: B--Baldwin; C--Blackwell