The Cape Central boys basketball team pulls away from Poplar Bluff in second half at the SEMO Conference tourney

Wednesday, December 7, 2011
Central's Tim Booker dribbles around Poplar Bluff's Tyheim Town during the second quarter of a SEMO Conference tournament game Tuesday in Sikeston, Mo. (Kristin Eberts)

SIKESTON, Mo. -- Poplar Bluff was able to hang within striking distance for a half Tuesday night.

Central then blitzed the Mules in the third quarter to turn the SEMO Conference boys basketball tournament first-round game into a blowout.

Third-seeded Central crushed the sixth-seeded Mules 55-33 at the Sikeston Field House to remain undefeated.

"I thought we played good. We've been working hard," Central senior forward T.J. Tisdell said.

The Tigers will face second-seeded Charleston at 8:30 p.m. Thursday in the semifinals.

Central's Tim Booker tries to steal the ball from Poplar Bluff's Lucas Tibbs, right, as Poplar Bluff's Collin Lambert, left, looks on during the third quarter of a SEMO Conference tournament game Tuesday in Sikeston, Mo. (Kristin Eberts)

Thursday's other semifinal pits fourth-seeded Notre Dame against top-seeded Sikeston, the three-time defending tournament champion, at 7 p.m.

Central (4-0) led all the way Tuesday but didn't feel comfortable with its 30-19 halftime advantage.

The Tigers took care of that by outscoring Poplar Bluff (2-3) 19-2 in the third quarter to open a 49-21 bulge.

"We came out strong in the third quarter," Central senior guard Vance Toole said. "Coach told us the first two minutes of the second half would decide which way momentum would go.

"It was a close game [in the first half]. They battled and we battled."

Central's Garan Evans (20) brings the ball up the court flanked by teammates Delontre Haney, left, during the first quarter of a SEMO Conference tournament game Tuesday in Sikeston, Mo. (Kristin Eberts)

The 6-foot-6 Tisdell scored 16 points and the 5-10 Toole followed with 15 points to combine for more than half of Central's offensive output.

Tisdell, among the region's premier players, is the lone returning starter from Central's 2010-11 team that captured the program's first district title since 1997.

"Give credit to my younger guys. There were times I couldn't get the ball and they stepped up," Tisdell said.

Tisdell said he is taking on more of a leadership role this year after graduation robbed Central of so much experience.

"I try to play hard, and hopefully everybody will follow up," he said.

Said Central coach Drew Church: "T.J. tries to be a leader. He's the only guy who played much varsity basketball last year."

Toole, who saw limited varsity action a year ago, now is a starter. He hit three 3-pointers and pumped in a career-high point total Tuesday.

"My role is just to pretty much give the ball to our scorers. If I have an open shot, I'll take it," Toole said. "I don't take many shots. When I do, I make sure they're good ones."

Church likes the way Toole has performed so far this season.

"Vance has been in our system four years. He's smart and he does a good job," Church said. "He shot the ball well. I was proud of him."

Church also was pleased with two sophomores who provided sparks off the bench.

Forward Jamal Cox scored eight points, four coming on a pair of follow shots late in the first half that helped the Tigers lead 30-19 at the break.

Guard Tim Booker, who was making his first appearance for the Tigers, scored all four of his points in the third quarter when Central broke open things.

"They both gave us some good minutes," Church said.

Church came away satisfied with the way the Tigers performed.

"Everybody contributed. For us to do well, that's what we have to do," Church said. "As inexperienced as we are, playing five sophomores like we do, I thought this was a step in the right direction.

"I'm pleased, but we still have to get way better."

Church acknowledges that the Tigers, whose closest margin of victory has been 14 points, have played a soft schedule so far.

That will change Thursday when Central takes on talented Charleston in the semifinals.

"They're a great team," Church said. "It will be a test for us, but we need to play a team like that."

Poplar Bluff910212--33
Central1515196--55

POPLAR BLUFF (33) -- Michael Griggs 5, Kendric McCain 6, Jake Rathbun 4, Lucas Tibbs 2, Joey Bloodworth 4, Tyheim Town 1, Zach Sexton 6, Lance Gray 5. FG 14, FT 3-5, F 14. (3-pointers: Griggs 1, Gray 1. Fouled out: none)

CENTRAL (55) -- Ross McClanahan 3, Vance Toole 15, Tim Booker 4, Devon Johnson 1, Garan Evans 6, T.J. Tisdell 16, Jamal Cox 8, Delontre Haney 2. FG 21, FT 9-13, F 11. (3-pointers: McClanahan 1, Toole 3. Fouled out: none)

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