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Notre Dame boys breeze past Central
The Bulldogs won 79-45, handing Central its first conference loss.
Rival boys basketball teams Notre Dame and Central met for the second time this season Tuesday, and for the second time the Bulldogs were able to empty their bench with a running clock in the final quarter.
Notre Dame opened a 30-point lead midway through the third quarter and routed Central 79-45 at the Show Me Center.
The Bulldogs improved to 18-4 overall and 5-1 in the SEMO Conference. Notre Dame beat the Tigers 86-37 at the SEMO Conference tournament in early December.
"They just had no answer for [Ryan] Willen inside," Notre Dame coach Paul Hale said. "We had them outmanned inside. They couldn't score over him.
"I think they played harder than the last time. Drew [Church] has them headed in the right direction."
As was the case in the first meeting, Notre Dame took control from the start. The Bulldogs led 13-0 and held a 22-3 lead late in the first. Central cut the lead to 22-6 after one quarter.
Willen, Notre Dame's 6-foot-7 junior, scored eight points in the first quarter and had 16 by half. Willen finished with a team-high 23 points. Notre Dame led 42-19 at halftime.
"We came out flat for sure," Central coach Drew Church said. "First off, my hat's off to Notre Dame. They're a great basketball team. They played hard from the tip to the end buzzer. That's a characteristic of a great basketball team. Especially at the high school level, it's hard to get kids to play hard the whole game."
Central was undefeated in SEMO Conference play before falling to the Bulldogs. The Tigers fell to 4-1 and still have three of the top conference teams remaining in Jackson, Charleston and Sikeston.
Notre Dame still has a chance to win the conference title despite falling to Charleston on Saturday. The Bulldogs allowed a last-second basket to the Bluejays to drop their first conference game.
"It's always good to come back after a loss, especially a conference game," Hale said. "We want to finish off strong."
Bulldogs junior guard Ty Williams was hot from the outside against the Tigers. Williams hit six 3-pointers and finished with 22 points. Against Charleston, Williams finished with just four points.
"I was glad to see him come back like that," Hale said. "Charleston held him in check. He really responded well."
The Tigers would get no closer than 22 points in the second half. Notre Dame's lead grew to as large as 75-35 late in the fourth quarter.
Anthony Watts led the Tigers (10-11) with 13 points and Kerry Walker had 11.
"I'm telling my kids we're going through another three-game stretch that's really tough," Church said. "At the end of the year at district time, we need to be the best basketball team we can be.
"Games like this are good for us. I'm taking a group that has one kid from varsity last year. It's games like this with high tension and up-tempo that are good learning experiences for our kids."
Notre Dame has four games left on its schedule, including conference games against Kennett, Poplar Bluff and Caruthersville. The Bulldogs host Anna-Jonesboro on Saturday for the school's hall of fame game.
"We want to build for the district," Hale said. "We want to play each quarter better than the last for the rest of the season. We have to peak heading into district."