(Kristin Eberts) [Order this photo]
But the Tigers' 14-point victory in a quarterfinal of the 66th annual Southeast Missourian Christmas tournament was not routine.
Upset-minded, seventh-seeded Leopold pushed heavily favored, second-seeded Central much of the way before the Tigers came away with a 67-53 win.
The Tigers (7-2) move into today's 7:30 p.m. semifinal against third-seeded Jackson. The Wildcats (8-2) will face sixth-seeded Oran at 4:30 p.m. in a fifth-place semifinal.
"I wasn't surprised. Coach told us they were good," Central senior forward James Lane said. "We just took it too lightly. We should have played harder."
"Hats off to Leopold. They play extremely hard," Central coach Drew Church said. "They hit shots and they gave us some fits.
"I was a little disappointed with how our kids handled their pressure. But we found a way to win. When you can play lousy and find a way to win, that's a good sign."
Leopold ultimately had no answer inside for Central's 6-foot-5 tandem of Lane and junior forward T.J. Tisdale, who combined for 39 points.
Lane had 12 of his 14 points in the first half while Tisdale had 15 of his game-high 25 points in the second half. Both players powered home a slam.
Church praised the play of Tisdale and Lane but said the Tigers should have taken advantage of the duo even more.
"We were bigger than them. We really needed to get in a halfcourt game and pound it inside," Church said. "They sped us up."
Senior guard Andrew Williams added 11 points for Central.
Senior guard Lance Seiler paced Leopold with 16 points. Senior guard John Bohnsack added 13 points and sophomore guard Kyle Stroder had 10.
"It was a crazy game," Tisdale said. "We took 'em lightly. They're a good team. We didn't come ready to play."
The Tigers looked ready early as they forced five quick turnovers to score the game's first seven points and later built a 16-4 lead.
"We dug ourselves a hole," Kinder said. "Early in the game turnovers killed us."
Leopold must have had nightmares of last year's 71-37 first-round tournament loss to Central.
But the Wildcats weren't about to get blown out this time. They righted the ship by pulling within 16-10 after one quarter.
The Wildcats made it 23-20 midway through the second quarter and trailed 30-23 at halftime.
Leopold battled back every time Central looked like it might break open the game.
But Leopold got no closer than five points in the third quarter. The Tigers carried a 48-38 lead into the final period and kept a double-digit advantage the remainder of the way.
"We competed and played hard, but we didn't play very good or smart," Kinder said. "We're young and inexperienced, but we've played nine games now. I'm going to stop using that as an excuse."
The Tigers, second in last year's tournament, will try to book consecutive trips to the championship game when they face rival Jackson tonight.
"They've got a really good ballclub this year," Church said.
CENTRAL (67) -- Ross McClanahan 4, David Watts 1, Andrew Williams 11, T.J. Tisdale 25, James Lane 14, Garan Evans 8. FG 22, FT 18-26, F 9. (3-pointers: McClanahan 1, Williams 2, Evans 2. Fouled out: none)
LEOPOLD (53) -- Greg Davis 2, Kyle Stroder 10, Joe Elfrink 3, Cameron Davis 6, John Bohnsack 13, Lance Seiler 16, Brandon Jansen 3. FG 20, FT 7-10, F 18. (3-pointers: Elfrink 1, Bohnsack 3, Seiler 2. Fouled out: Greg Davis)