De Soto a tall order in Central loss

Saturday, February 22, 2003

Senior night turned into flashback night at Central High School Friday night.

With the De Soto Dragons visiting, the Tigers found themselves dwarfed much like in last year's 4-21 season.

Even with 6-foot-8 sophomore Scott Chestnutt in their ranks and scoring a game-high 21 points, Central was no match for a towering De Soto squad.

The Tigers, playing their final regular-season game before the onset of the Class 5 districts on Monday, suffered their third straight loss, a 71-61 setback.

De Soto (22-4) matched Central (16-9) with their own 6-foot-8 starter, Tony Boyle. But the Dragons upped the ante by also starting 6-8 Andy Sides, who finished with 19 points, and 6-4 guard Zeb Hammond, who netted 18 points.

If that wasn't enough, 6-8 junior Anthony Thebeau came off the bench to score 17 points.

"It kind of seemed like last year," Central senior Corey Bowman said. "We haven't seen that kind of size before. We're just not use to it."

The Tigers did see Charleston visit with 6-8 Kewain Gant and 6-6 Ashton Farmer on Tuesday, which ended in a 13-point loss.

But Bowman was impressed with the overall skill of the Dragons. The big guys showed shooting range, dribbling and passing ability and were a force on defense.

"Charleston couldn't do it all," Bowman said. "De Soto is stronger. I think it would be a good game between those two."

The Tigers had matchup problems all evening, at times having 5-11 Anthony Harris on Sides and 6-0 Ryan Delph covering Hammond.

"We're tall, that's been an advantage in most all of our games," Hammond said.

The Dragons have capitalized with one of their best seasons ever entering Class 4 district play next week. They lost two of their first five games of the year and have since gone 19-1.

"Toward the end of the season we really picked it up," Hammond said. "Our dream is going all the way to state this year."

"When they have the three 6-8 kids in there, they're bigger than SEMO," Central coach Derek McCord said. "They're bigger than a lot of college mid-major D-I schools."

Any question whether the big guys could play was answered quickly when Central's first possession ended in two blocked shots.

The Tigers took their only lead, 5-2, on a Bowman 3-pointer but quickly fell into a 13-point hole and never emerged. De Soto answered its only deficit with a 16-2 spurt. Hammond hit a 3-pointer with 4:29 left in the period to put the Dragons ahead for good and start a 8-0 run.

The Dragons took a 20-13 lead into the second quarter. Central crept to 30-24 with 2:50 left in the half on a Michael Brown 3-point play, but Central never got closer. De Soto closed with a 10-3 spurt for a 40-27 lead at halftime.

The Tigers shot just 38 percent from the field in the half, while De Soto sizzled at 65 percent.

"We really struggled shooting the ball in the first half," McCord said. "When you go up against athletes that are bigger, faster and stronger like we did tonight, you've got to make shots. And we just struggled shooting the ball, and that was the difference in the game. We struggled shooting it and they didn't."

The situation didn't get any better in the third quarter when Delph, Harris and Will Johnson picked up their fourth fouls. The Dragons spread the lead to 17 points, 52-35, by the end of the quarter.

Central only got as close as 10 points down the stretch.

The Tigers enter districts with their longest losing streak of the season.

"I can't look inside their heads," McCord said. "They didn't seem like they were too down. I think we'll bounce back confident and show some resiliency."

Central, the second seed in its district, faces third-seeded Farmington 7:30 p.m. Monday at home.

jbreer@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 124

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