Central girls basketball team trounces Sikeston in Holiday Classic

Wednesday, December 19, 2012
Central’s Alayah Cooper-Johnson drives past Sikeston’s Hayli Chapman for a lay-up during the Tigers’ win in the first round of the Kelso Supply Holiday Classic on Tuesday at the Show Me Center. (ADAM VOGLER)

Central girls basketball coach Sherri Shirrell says that as senior forward Alayah Cooper-Johnson goes, so go the Tigers.

Tuesday night, things went well for the Tigers. Very well.

Cooper-Johnson was nearly a one-woman show as the Tigers ripped Sikeston 55-25 in the first round of the Kelso Supply Holiday Classic at the Show Me Center. She scored 29 points on 11-of-16 shooting, hit 7 of 12 free throws, pulled down 14 rebounds (including nine on the offensive end) and had four steals as the Tigers reached the semifinal round, where they will face Jackson at 8:30 p.m. Thursday.

"I think it's important for her to have that kind of game every time we play," Shirrell said after her squad improved to 5-2 on the season. "She's definitely our leader on the floor, and we go as she goes. She dictates what we do, and if she's got a good game going on, then usually everyone follows."

Cooper-Johnson started slowly as the Bulldogs (0-5) packed their defense in an effort to contain Central's leading scorer. But when senior guard Bailey Kratochvil hit a couple first-quarter 3-pointers, Cooper-Johnson suddenly was able to find more room to maneuver.

Central's Bailey Bliss, bottom, and Sikeston's Aleah Little wrestle for the ball during the Tigers' first-round win in the Kelso Supply Holiday Classic at the Show Me Center. (ADAM VOGLER)

"They were double- and triple-teaming Alayah on the inside, and Bailey hit those 3s which forced them to come out and play a little bit of defense, and opened it up a little more for Alayah in the middle," Shirrell said.

The results were instantaneous. Cooper-Johnson scored 10 of Central's 16 first-quarter points, including converting a backcourt steal into a three-point play that got the Tigers rolling. She scored again on a baseline drive moments into the second quarter and, following a Katie Williams steal, converted a feed into another three-point play that put the Tigers up 21-8.

Three-pointers by Kratochvil and Kassidy Pannier were part of a 14-5 run that culminated with another Cooper-Johnson steal and layup that put Central up 32-13. Late in the first half, Cooper-Johnson followed up Pannier's missed layup with a put-back, then stole the ball near half-court and converted a layup just before the halftime buzzer to put Central up 38-15.

"We did excellent on our press, and we got multiple steals off of it that led to layups," Cooper-Johnson said. "I think it did set the tone."

Any thoughts Sikeston had of cutting into the deficit were crushed late in the third when the Bulldogs turned the ball over on five consecutive possessions and trailed 45-23 heading into the final frame.

"We've been hurt all year by silly turnovers," Sikeston coach Matt Schonhoff said. "I like our intensity on the defensive end, but we have to be more smooth on the offensive end."

Cooper-Johnson's effort was not lost on Schonhoff.

"I thought we did an outstanding job on the half-court-in containing her," he said, "but she hurt us on the loose balls and on the rebounds, tippy-toeing around the rim. That part is a downer. She's a great player.

"That last 20 seconds of the first half, we were close, and she had like two or three steals and some buckets and I believe an 'and-one' that kind of took us out of the basketball game."

The Bulldogs were done in by 37 turnovers, which included being victimized by 20 steals.

"We definitely want to pride ourselves on defense this year," said Kratochvil, who added 11 points -- including three 3-pointers -- and four steals. "That's our main goal is to pride ourself on defense. We like to come out and pressure the ball. That's always a good thing."

Junior Kadie Orenstein had six points and eight rebounds for Central. Among the Tigers' 32 rebounds were 18 offensive boards.

Sikeston moves into the consolation bracket where the Bulldogs will face Perryville on Thursday at 5:30 p.m.

Sikeston8782--25
Central162298--55

SIKESTON (25) -- Yolanda Johnson 6, Hayli Chapman 5, Michala Nichols 5, Brianna Sherrell 4, Miranda Harrison 2, Aleah Little 2, Aerionna Beard 1. F: 8, FT: 3-11, F: 15. (3-pointers: Johnson 1, Nichols 1. Fouled out: none.)

CENTRAL (55) -- Alayah Cooper-Johnson 29, Bailey Kratochvil 11, Kadie Orenstein 6, Kassidy Pannier 5, Maddie Daum 2, Katie Williams 1, Tramonee Stewart 1. FG: 20, FT: 11-20, F: 11. (3-pointers: Kratochvil 3, Pannier 1. Fouled out: none.)

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