Both Southeast squads enter open stretch at .500

Monday, December 10, 2012

Both Southeast Missouri State basketball teams have a break from game competition this week during final exams.

Each squad took its initial final of sorts -- on the court -- as Southeast hosted its first doubleheader of the season Saturday night.

Only the women were able to ace the exam.

Second-year coach Ty Margenthaler's squad continued its resurgence, beating Western Illinois 56-47.

Southeast's women are 5-5. That might not seem like much to some people, but it looks pretty good when you consider that the Redhawks only won seven games during Margenthaler first season last year and haven't posted more than eight victories in a season since the 2008-09 campaign.

It also looks pretty good when you consider that the Redhawks have matched their best record through 10 games since the 2007-08 season despite playing seven of the games away from the Show Me Center. Their five nonconference wins also are their most since 2007-08, and they are 3-0 at home for the first time since 2008-09.

Fourth-year coach Dickey Nutt's men missed a chance to put some distance between themselves and the .500 mark with their first home loss -- an 88-85 setback to Central Arkansas.

That has to be termed an upset because UCA -- despite routing Southeast 88-72 last season in Conway, Ark. -- won just eight games a year ago and recently beat Ohio Valley Conference bottom feeders Tennessee-Martin and Eastern Illinois by a combined three points.

Southeast's men are 6-6. That's not bad, considering the Redhawks have played only four of their first 12 games at home. It's been a grueling road schedule for the Redhawks, who have traveled nearly 4,000 miles by bus.

But it's safe to say the Redhawks, who compiled their first winning November under Nutt, probably expected to have a better record at this point.

Except for the anticipated losses in money games at Kansas and Missouri, the Redhawks have dropped contests to four teams in which they had as much talent, if not more.

All four of those games -- against UCA, Illinois-Chicago, Troy and Louisiana Tech -- were decided in the final minutes.

The good news for both Southeast squads is that Saturday's action began a home-friendly stretch of their schedules.

Southeast's women play five of seven at the Show Me Center, although their next game is on the road -- Sunday at Western Kentucky.

Southeast's men play five of six in Cape Girardeau, including their next game Dec. 19 when New Orleans visits.

This year marks the 25th anniversary of the Show Me Center, and the theme for Saturday's basketball doubleheader fittingly was 80s night.

What made the day extra special was appearances by the 1987-88 men's and women's teams -- Southeast's first squads to play at the Show Me Center.

And what strong teams they were, among the nation's best on the Division II level. Coach Ron Shumate's men went 28-4 and set the program record for wins that still stands. Coach Ed Arnzen's women were 26-4.

Quite a few of those squads' former players were in attendance, as was Shumate, who lives in Chattanooga, Tenn. Arnzen, who still resides in Cape Girardeau, was in Arizona visiting family and sent his regards through some of his ex-players.

I covered those teams -- yes, I have been working at the Missourian a long, long time -- and it was great to see the coaches and players who came back for the event.

Former Southeast baseball standout Justin Christian signed a minor league contract with the St. Louis Cardinals last week.

The 32-year-old outfielder played in the major leagues with the San Francisco Giants parts of the past two seasons, although he was not on their 2012 playoff roster when they won the World Series. He also appeared in the majors with the New York Yankees in 2008.

Christian has put up impressive numbers in the minor leagues but has never received a consistent opportunity in the big leagues.

Christian has a career .203 major-league batting average -- including nine doubles, 12 RBIs and 12 stolen bases in 16 attempts -- spanning 76 games and 155 plate appearances. He hit .250 with the Yankees in 2008 and .255 with the Giants in 2011, but he batted just .125 for the Giants in 2012.

The speedy native of the San Francisco Bay area has batted .310 during seven seasons on the Class AAA level. His Class AAA totals include a .370 on-base percentage, 86 doubles, 16 triples, 27 home runs and 115 stolen bases in 132 attempts.

Christian played only one season at Southeast after transferring from Auburn in 2003. He batted .376 with 13 home runs, 12 doubles, 48 RBIs and 18 stolen bases in 20 attempts while playing second base. He was the OVC rookie of the year and was selected to a pair of All-American teams.

Christian, who was not drafted, began his pro career in the independent Frontier League before hooking up with an affiliated organization.

I covered most of last week's SEMO Conference boys basketball tournament in Sikeston, Mo. It was, as usual, a fabulous event featuring many of the region's top teams.

Sikeston (6-0) and Charleston (5-1) again look like the class of the region. They rolled through their first two tournament opponents before second-seeded Sikeston beat top-seeded Charleston 71-61 on Friday night.

It was Sikeston's fourth SEMO Conference tournament title in the past five seasons. Charleston, which prevailed last year over Sikeston, owns the other three crowns during the event's seven-year history.

Charleston, the defending Class 3 state champion, is ranked first in Class 3. Sikeston is Missouri's top-ranked Class 4 squad. I'll be surprised if both don't make deep runs in the state tournament.

The teams that met for third place at Sikeston, major rivals Central and Notre Dame, both feature inexperienced rosters, with Notre Dame starting four sophomores.

Both squads will have their share of ups and downs this year, but they have the potential for solid seasons.

Central beat Notre Dame 54-43 as the Tigers pulled away from a 25-25 halftime tie.

The region's top high school wrestling tournament will be held Friday and Saturday when Central hosts the 39th annual Tiger Classic.

Jackson continued its impressive run at the event last year, finishing second for the third consecutive season despite a lineup that featured five freshmen and four sophomores.

The Indians -- who never seem reload rather than rebuild -- have placed in the top four at every Tiger Classic but one since 1990.

Marty Mishow is a sports writer for the Southeast Missourian.

Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: