The Tigers posted a 72-70 victory over the state-ranked Bearcats. ~ Southeast Missourian
Eli Harris and a group of five Central seniors made their last appearance at home Friday night in a SEMO Conference boys basketball matchup with Dexter.
Harris made sure Central's seniors had reason to celebrate after the game, scoring a team-high 21 points to lead the Tigers to a 72-70 win.
"This was senior night and everyone came out and stepped it up," Harris said. "We had some younger guys step up and get some boards. We just played together throughout the game."
Central improved to 12-14 with the win. The Tigers will next play on Tuesday, when they meet rival Jackson for the fourth time this season in the opening round of the Class 5 District 1 tournament at Poplar Bluff.
Harris said ending the year with a win over a 20-5 team like Dexter will help heading into the playoffs.
"It gives us some momentum, definitely," he said.
Despite going up against a team ranked No. 9 in Class 4, Central was able to stick with the Bearcats throughout. By the time the game came down to its exciting finish, there had been 11 ties.
Central took the lead for good on a drive from Harris with 35 seconds remaining. Harris' bucket gave the Tigers a 70-68 lead. Dexter missed a shot on its next possession, and Garrett Ozbun was fouled on the rebound.
Ozbun hit one of two free throws to push the lead to 71-68, and a Dexter turnover on its next possession put the Tigers back on the line. Alex Ray hit one of two free throws to extend the lead to 72-68. Dexter was not done though, hitting a pair of free throws to cut the lead to 72-70 with 9.2 seconds remaining.
Central looked prime to run out the clock, or return to the line, but the inbound pass went through the legs of Ozbun, giving the Bearcats the ball back. Scott Admire could not convert on a 3-pointer at the buzzer, though, giving the Tigers the win.
"Every game we've played so far has been close down the stretch," Harris said.
Anthony Hempstead added 15 points for the Tigers, and senior Ray had 10. Ray scored 8 points in the fourth quarter.
"I thought Alex Ray had a strong fourth quarter for us," Central coach Derek McCord said.
Hempstead added 15 rebounds and Harris had 10. Central outrebounded Dexter 43-29.
"Eli Harris had 21 and 10 which capped off a great regular season career for him," McCord said. "He's suffered through a lot of injuries, but he's been a great leader both on and off the court. He epitomizes what you want in a student athlete."
Eric Rinehart led all scorers with 29 points for Dexter. Chris Guethle and Anthony Elfrink added 10 points apiece.
Central 72, Dexter 70
DEXTER (70) -- Eric Rinehart 29, Chris Guethle 10, Anthony Elfrink 10, Levi Rawson 9, Derek Roberts 4, Scott Admire 6. FG 28, FT 11-22, F 20 (3-pointers: Guethle 1, Rawson 1. Fouled out: Roberts)
CENTRAL (72) -- Eli Harris 21, Anthony Hempstead 15, Alex Ray 10, Gabe Edwards 5, David Deisher 4, Darnell Wilks 5, Garrett Ozbun 8, Jajuan Bell 4. FG 25, FT 19-30, F 16 (3-pointers: Bell 1, Harris 2. Fouled out: none)
JV -- Dexter 66, Central 58