Tigers face another tall order against Mules

Thursday, December 11, 2003

Central will have a chance to avenge last season's district finals loss to Poplar Bluff when the two teams meet tonight in the Sikeston Tournament.

But those awaiting the first matchup of 6-foot-8 centers Tyler Hansbrough and Scott Chestnutt likely will have to wait.

Hansbrough, who has attracted national attention and has been ranked as high as fifth among juniors, has not played this season due to injury and is doubtful for tonight's game. Without Hansbrough, the Mules -- although No. 8 in the state in Class 5 -- are 0-2 this season, which includes a 53-52 loss to Blytheville (Ark.) in their Sikeston Tournament opener.

Central coach Derek McCord said Hansbrough's game status will not affect the way his team approaches the game.

"This early in the season," he said, "we try to work on what we're doing not what the opponent is."

The Tigers already have a tournament championship appearance on their record this season, and with a win tonight the Tigers would secure a spot in the Sikeston Tournament finals at 8:30 p.m. Friday. Central stayed close with a much bigger Hazelwood Central team in the Farmington finals before leading scorers Ryan Delph and Chestnutt encountered late foul trouble.

Sporting a starting lineup with only two players 6 feet or taller, the Tigers will try to rely on their guards to get past a bigger team in the Mules. Even withough Hansbrough, the Mules feature 6-8 transfer Ross Whelan along with Ben Hansbrough (6-4) and Glen Yandell (6-3).

"This is a big rivalry for us," Delph said. "Most of us have been playing against them since the third grade, and they've beat us every year."

Delph went for 24 points in Central's season opener and averages 15.75 points a game through four games. Point guard Will Johnson has been steady, and Jake Knepp also will be expected to add points. Eli Harris, a junior, put up a career-high 18 against Hazelwood Central.

jjoffray@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 171

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