Saxony's Bryant Steffens attempts to block a pass by Central's Kevin Casasola during the second half Tuesday.
But the Central Tigers seemed more than willing to help Steffens get untracked in the third period by feeding him the ball.
Steffens made four steals in a 5-minute span to close out the third quarter, as Saxony pulled away from Central en route to a 54-47 victory.
With the win, the Class 2 Crusaders (15-1) completed a sweep of Cape Girardeau County's Class 5 schools. They had beaten Jackson earlier this season. Saxony, ranked in the state's top 10 in Class 2 after winning a district title last year, plays Friday night at defending Class 4 state champion Notre Dame.
Tuesday's game marked the first boys varsity basketball game between the two schools since Saxony started its program six years ago.
Central's Kevin Casasola, left, and Saxony Lutheran's Bret Steffens fight for a rebound during the second half Tuesday at Saxony Lutheran. The Crusaders won 54-47.
"It's one of the major accomplishments of Saxony's career," said junior Trevor Mabuce, who added 12 points.
Central (6-9) had played within five points of Class 3 state-ranked New Madrid County Central in a low-scoring game Friday night.
This wasn't exactly an offensive clinic either, with the teams tied 12-12 after one period and Central leading 22-19 at halftime. The Tigers had built their largest lead of 22-15 on a 10-0 run earlier in the second quarter.
But it became a defensive clinic by Saxony Lutheran, as the Crusaders outscored Central 14-0 in a 2:45 stretch in the third period.
Central's Blake Ozbun scores two points against Saxony in the second half of a Crusader victory 54-47 Tuesday night at Saxony.
Fourteen seconds later, he had another steal and a layin. And he made another steal 24 seconds after that one. The possession led to two Central fouls and one free throw by Bret Steffens. Mabuce then knocked in a 3, as Saxony stretched its lead to 33-25. Mabuce made another basket on a wide-open layin as the Crusaders spread the offense to make the score 35-27 with 1:39 to play in the period.
"We didn't handle the ball too well," Central coach Drew Church said. "There were times when we threw it right to them. In basketball, in crucial times of the game, if you turn the ball over, that's what kills you."
Saxony coach Sam Sides said his team's defense was able to offset the size advantage Central had inside, where 6-4 senior Rick Russell and 6-6 sophomore Zach Boerboom were limited to four points each.
"We're going to be outsized most games we play," Sides said. "With our defense, we try to help each other quite a bit. We try to put pressure on the ball and help inside.."
"I was just over there dropping down, and I'd just turn around and see Bryant going the other way with the ball," Mabuce said. "He was amazing on defense tonight. It was impressive."
Central closed back within 40-37 in the fourth period, but the Crusaders broke away midway through the fourth period. After Mabuce hit two free throws to make the score 44-39, the Tigers broke through the press but Central's Boerboom missed a shot from point-blank range. Garrett Fritsche then hit a 3-pointer for Saxony, and Central had a turnover after breaking the press on the next possession. Bryant Steffens was fouled and hit two free throws that bumped Saxony's lead to 49-39.
Steffens hit four of Saonxy's seven 3-pointers among his team-high 16. Bret Steffens added 14 points.
Sophomore Andrew Williams had a season-high 16 points for Central, knocking down four 3-pointers. Sophomore Blake Ozbun added 11 and junior Kevin Casasola added 10.
@z_agate_no tab_no indnt_bld ld:Central (47) -- Blake Ozbun 11, Terrance Howard 2, Andrew Williams 16, Kevin Casasola 10, Rick Russell 4, Zach Boerboom 4. FG 21, FT 1-3, F 20. (3-pointers: Williams 4, Ozbun 1, Casasola 1. Fouled out: none)
Saxony Lutheran (54) -- Trevor Mabuce 12, Chris Roth 6, Bret Steffens 14, Bryant Steffens 16, Garrett Fritsche 6. FG 16, FT 15-22, F 11 (3-pointers: Bry. Steffens 4, Fritsche 1, Roth 1, Mabuce 1. Fouled out: none)