The Central girls basketball team knew what to expect when it took the floor against top-seeded Poplar Bluff in the Class 5 District 1 semifinal Tuesday.
"We know the pressure defense that they play," Central coach Sherri Shirrell said. "It was the same when we were down there pretty much."
Unfortunately for the Tigers, the results also were the same. Central's season ended with a 53-25 loss at home to the Mules.
"They play really hard all the time," Central senior Chelsea Pannier said. "We knew that coming in, and we usually have trouble with our guards getting the ball up the floor. We knew we had trouble with that. We just didn't execute very well today."
"We've got to get better at handling the ball," Shirrell said. "That's something for us to work on over the summer with our guards. We're young, but give Bluff credit. They came out with a good game plan pressuring us."
Poplar Bluff built an 11-0 lead before Chelsea Vinson scored the Tigers' first two points with 2 minutes, 42 seconds left in the first quarter.
"They had us covered pretty tightly," Vinson said. "We couldn't get the reversals we needed and the passes, so we just had to get up some shots."
The Mules made as many shots as Central took in each of the first two quarters. The Tigers, who made just eight field goals in the game, were 5 of 13 from the field in the first half while Poplar Bluff made 15 of its 23 shots.
Poplar Bluff built a 16-2 lead after one quarter that expanded to 41-13 at halftime.
Pannier said the early deficit contributed to the Tigers' troubles.
"We started going too fast," she said. "We didn't slow down and play defense on them. We let them get all kinds of shots, and we just didn't play our game."
Pannier will be the only regular contributor not to return next season for Central, which finished the season 11-13.
"She's been the heart and soul of our team for four years," Shirrell said. "I hate to see her graduate. She's a great kid."
Four sophomores scored for Central on Tuesday, including Vinson and Alayah Cooper Johnson, who have started for the team all season.
Vinson was the only Central player to reach double digits Tuesday. She finished with 11 points.
"I think we got better over time, and I think we'll come ready next year because we know what we need to do," Vinson said. "We accomplished what we needed to this year, and we just have to bring it to next year."
Pannier scored four points in her final game for Central and predicted success for her younger teammates.
"We're real excited to play together," she said. "We get along really well and we had a lot of fun. We just didn't end it up how it's supposed to be.
"I wish them a lot of success. I love them to death, but they play really hard. I know they'll have lots of success in the future."
CENTRAL (25) -- Alayah Cooper-Johnson 3, Bailey Kratochvil 3, Victoria Scheller 2, Chelsea Pannier 4, Chelsea Vinson 11, Katie Williams 2. FG 8, F 13, FT 6-10. (3 -pointers: Kratochvil 1, Pannier 1, Vinson 1. Fouled out: none)
POPLAR BLUFF (53) -- Chelsea Darnell 10, Danielle Farmer 10, Miranda Burroughs 9, Marissa Webb 14, Courtney Knuckles 11, Yalonda Johnson 2. (3-pointers: Farmer 1, Knuckles 1, Burroughs 3. Fouled out: none)