Central posts OT triumph

Wednesday, January 28, 2004

No Scott Chestnutt.

No Eli Harris.

No Will Johnson.

No Mitch Craft.

No sweat.

Playing without four of its top six players, Central's boys basketball team overcame a four-point fourth-quarter deficit to beat Doniphan 68-56 in overtime Tuesday at Central.

"That's one of the most gratifying wins I've ever had," Central coach Derek McCord said.

Central has had plenty to deal with in the past 48 hours. The Tigers spent Monday trying to prepare for Doniphan while dealing with the loss of three starters to suspension and Harris' injury suffered in a win against Mehlville on Friday.

Seniors Craft and Johnson along with junior Chestnutt were suspended indefinitely for violating the school's citizenship guidelines. Craft was issued a summons for minor in possession of alcohol and suspicion of fleeing lawful detention stemming from an incident over the weekend. Chestnutt and Johnson were with Craft at the time.

After several team meetings led by seniors Jake Knepp and Ryan Delph, the Tigers (15-3) came out on Tuesday ready to play. Using three starters who barely averaged more than 10 minutes of playing time between them, Central raced to a 12-4 lead highlighted by a Delph dunk to start the scoring.

Sophomore Garrett Ozbun was one of several junior varsity regulars to contribute. Ozbun, in his first start, scored 17 points and added 12 rebounds, both career highs.

"You look at practice and you see six or seven guys and you wonder where everybody is," Ozbun said. "We knew we all had to step up."

Central boosted its lead up to 34-17 before Doniphan came to life. The Dons outscored Central 23-6 the rest of the third quarter to tie the game at 40 heading into the fourth.

"When they made that run we could have gotten our heads down and given up real easy," Ozbun said.

Matt Rogers, Doniphan's 6-foot-7 sophomore center, scored 13 points in the third quarter and finished with 20.

"He had a big third quarter, but we really stepped up and came together," McCord said.

Central kept its composure. Even after Doniphan grabbed the lead midway through the fourth, Central remained within striking distance. Delph scored 10 points in the quarter, and his two free throws with 44 seconds remaining tied the score at 54.

Doniphan had several chances to win the game in regulation, but Brett Reed's shot was blocked by Gabe Edwards with less than two seconds remaining.

The overtime belonged to Central, which outscored Doniphan 14-2 in the four-minute period. Knepp scored seven points in overtime.

"I've never been more proud of a group of boys before," McCord said. "The last 48 hours they had every reason to not perform."

Delph led the Tigers with 24 points and Knepp had 18.

"I think we were more focused tonight than we've ever been," Delph said.

The Tigers next challenge will be a road game against Poplar Bluff. Central defeated Bluff earlier in the season, but the Mules were without star Tyler Hansbrough at the time.

With no time-table in place regarding the suspensions, the Tigers will have to make due with the lineup they have.

Delph said none of the players are ready to throw in the towel just yet.

"We don't have anything to lose," he said. "We'll be underdogs the rest of the year."

Despite putting a cramp in Central's strong season, the players are standing behind their suspended teammates and hope they will be able to return.

"We know they did wrong, but we're behind them all the way," Delph said.

Central 68, Doniphan 56 OT


DONIPHAN (56) -- Travis Woodson 2, Seth Carpenter 3, Lance Majors 1, Brett Reed 2, Matt Rogers 20, Devin Simms 8, Stephan Riechers 8, Nic Gordon 9, Mitchell Pearson 3. FG 20, FT 10-16, F 21 (3-pointers: Gordon 3, Riechers 1, Pearson 1, Carpenter 1. Fouled out: Rogers)

CENTRAL (68) -- Ryan Delph 24, Jake Knepp 18, Garrett Ozbun 17, Gabe Edwards 2, Tyrone Reece 4, Todd Obergoenner 4. FG 23, FT 22-26, F 15 (3-pointers: none. Fouled out: none)

JV: Central 49, Doniphan 48

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