Tigers' dreadful start is the end

Friday, February 24, 2006

Poplar Bluff scored the game's first 15 points and rolled to a 77-53 victory.

A Central technical foul within the first minute of Thursday's Class 5 District 1 final helped No. 1 Poplar Bluff go up 7-0, and the host Tigers never could dig out of a 17-2 first-quarter deficit en route to a 77-53 loss.

The second-seeded Tigers ended their season 15-12. Poplar Bluff (22-5), the two-time defending Class 5 champion, will play Wednesday in a sectional game at Farmington.

"We dug ourselves a hole we couldn't get out of," Central coach Derek McCord said.

The technical took place after Central sophomore Derek Walker fouled Mules star Ben Hansbrough as Hansbrough went for a breakaway dunk. Walker got in Hansbrough's face after the foul and the confrontation drew the technical.

"Not a good way to start the game off," McCord said. "Derek Walker's been a great defender for us all season long, and he was excited for the chance [to guard Hansbrough]. After he blocked the shot, he said, 'No way.'"

Hansbrough and Allan Spencer hit two free throws apiece, and Hansbrough hit the first of his five first-half 3-pointers on the Mules' ensuing possession.

The Mules scored the next eight points to go up 15-0 with 4:20 left in the first quarter.

Central finally scored on a David Deisher layin with 4:05 left in the first, but by the end of the quarter Poplar Bluff was ahead 23-9. Hansbrough, who scored just 12 points in Tuesday's semifinal win over Jackson, had 13 points and three 3-pointers in the first quarter.

"I thought our defense set the tone and our offense was able to answer," Mules coach Travis Brown said. "When Ben makes plays like that, we're pretty good."

Tigers sophomore guard Jajuan Bell kept the Tigers in the game in the second with 11 points in the quarter, including a three-point play that cut the lead to 35-28 with 2:05 left in the half. Poplar Bluff ended the quarter with a 6-1 run to go ahead 41-29 at halftime.

Hansbrough had 25 points by halftime, on six of eight shooting. Hansbrough was 5-for-5 from 3-point range and 6-for-6 from the free throw line. The Mules were 14-for-18 from the line in the half as a team.

"When Ben's hitting, I just do everything to get him the ball," said Spencer, the Mules' senior point guard. "When he's on, it's hard to stop him."

While the Mules were able to ride Hansbrough to a 12-point first-half lead, Central star Darnell Wilks was nearly invisible in the opening half. The 6-foot-8 junior did not score his first points of the half until 2:39 remaining, and had just five points in the half.

Hansbrough guarded Wilks much of the game.

"Ben can defend," Brown said. "A lot of people look at him and take him for granted. He has a lot of ability. He wanted Darnell."

The Tigers got no closer than 10 points in the second half. Poplar Bluff used a 12-0 run early in the fourth quarter to push the lead to a game-high 69-41 and put the game away.

Hansbrough exited the game with about 4 minutes remaining with a game-high 37 points, nearly outscoring the Tigers while he was on the floor.

"Ben Hansbrough, he doesn't get fancy, he just gets the job done," McCord said.

Wilks finished with 16 points, including a pair of dunks late in the game. Bell and fellow sophomore Adrian Cox each had 11 points.

"We're still pleased with our season," McCord said. "We have a lot of positive things to build on."

Poplar Bluff 77, Central 53

Poplar Bluff23181422--77

CENTRAL (53) -- Darnell Wilks 16, Jajuan Bell 11, Adrian Cox 11, David Deisher 9, Jared Thomas 3, Jeremy Kimble 3. FG 19, FT 9-12, F 23 (3-pointers: Bell 2, Cox 3, Wilks 1. Fouled out: Deisher)

POPLAR BLUFF (77) -- Ben Hansbrough 37, Allan Spencer 9, David Stocks 9, Rusty Bryant 7, Skylar Holeman 4, Phillip Brown 4, Evan Bascombe 2, Jack March 2, Ricky Taylor 2, Mario Robinson 1. FG 27, FT 18-31, F 14 (3-pointers: Hansbrough 5. Fouled out: none)

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