Class 5 features worthy showdown

If you plan to attend the Class 5, District 1 basketball semifinals tonight at Central High School, please note the sign posted outside: "Welcome to the Jungle, enter at your own risk."

It's been six years since the Tigers faithful could get excited about anything this late in the winter sports season, but there's plenty to make fans giddy this year. Central has its best record since 1997 (21-7), the year rookie coach Brett Reutzel led the team to its last district title.

And now the 2003 Tigers, at 16-9, have a legitimate chance again. The Tigers are licking their chops at the thought of a district crown to truly baptize the new Jungle.

Farmington is the first team in line with a napkin to wipe off that drool. Although the Knights were defeated by Central twice this season, they are improved.

"If there's one thing I've learned in 15 years of coaching, it's to take it one game at a time," Central coach Derek McCord said.

If the Tigers make it into the finals, they likely will face Poplar Bluff for the second time this season. The last time the teams met, Central was down 51-50 in the fourth quarter with 4:50 to play.

You just never know.

"Stranger things have happened," McCord pointed out, "especially at home."

Today

Don't bother knocking on the front doors, because the house will be rocking. Just go on in and make yourself cozy at Central. Poplar Bluff and Jackson get things started at 6, and then it's Central and Farmington at 7:30 p.m.

Wednesday

You have two clear choices: You could go see your grandmother's nursing home perform "Oklahoma!" or you could go see Oklahoma perform against Missouri. If I were you, I'd pick the latter. Grandma will understand. Oklahoma at Missouri at 8 p.m.

Thursday

There's plenty to be excited about in Notre Dame Bulldog country. Last year the girls basketball team brought home the championship hardware. Maybe -- just maybe -- it's the boys' turn this year. Host Notre Dame begins its bid against either Sikeston or Perryville in Class 4, District 1 play at 7:45.

The Class 5, District 1 boys championship is at 7:30 p.m. at the Jungle. Get there early and see the girls get it started at 6.

Friday

Memphis travels three hours north in an attempt to spoil defending OVC champion Southeast's first baseball homestand of the new season. If the Tigers don't spoil it, this winter weather might. Memphis at Southeast, 3 p.m.

The Grizzlies will give away custom basketballs to the first 3,000 fans age 14 and under. It's also just the second home game for new acquisitions Mike Miller and Ryan Humphrey. Grizzlies and Heat, 7 p.m.

Another day, another championship battle: Class 4, District 1 championship at 6 p.m. (girls) and 7:45 p.m. (boys) at ND.

Saturday

If the SIU Salukis have any hopes of being a bubble team from the Missouri Valley Conference, they need this game. Kyle Korver leads No. 18 Creighton into "Little Egypt" at 8:05 p.m.

Mardi Gras in February? Even though it's a Mardi Gras theme night, it isn't OK to go Wild. The Blues host the Minnesota Wild for Bud Light Mardi Gras Night. 8 p.m. at Savvis.

David Wilson is a sports writer for the Southeast Missourian and a junior at Central High School. His column appears every Monday. But you knew that, right?

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