Central basketball squads battle turnovers, inconsistency

Monday, January 28, 2013
Central coach Drew Church communicates with his players from the sideline during the first quarter of Friday’s game against Poplar Bluff at Central. The Tigers dropped to 10-7 with a 74-69 loss. (Laura Simon)

Central boys basketball coach Drew Church wishes he had a magic wand.

If he did, he would use it to cure his Tigers' ballhandling woes with one giant wave.

Turnovers were a major factor in the Tigers' 74-69 home loss to SEMO Conference foe Poplar Bluff Friday night. Considering that Central outshot Poplar Bluff 60 percent (27 of 45) to 52 percent (28 of 54) and allowed just five offensive rebounds while getting eight of its own, Church could point to just one glaring statistic: turnovers.

Central (10-7) committed 17 to Poplar Bluff's six.

It really hits home when noting that following 14 of the 17 Central turnovers, Poplar Bluff scored on its ensuing possession.

Jackson’s LaQuesha Martin has signed a softball scholarship with Mineral Area Community College

Want more? On Friday, the Tigers saw a four-point first-quarter lead melt into a 36-33 halftime deficit. In the second quarter, over 15 possessions, Central attempted just three field goals -- hitting all three. Four times, the Tigers went to the free-throw line after being fouled, hitting 7 of 10, and once Sentrell Blackmon was whistled for a charging foul. The other seven possessions all ended by turnover without the Tigers attempting a shot.

"Turovers are killing us," Church said. "For the year, we're shooting 50 percent from the field to our opponents' 35 percent. When those percentages are like that, something's killing you, and right now, it's turnovers."

Back on Jan. 11, when Central fell to New Madrid County Central 52-49 on a last-second, half-court 3-pointer, the Tigers committed 16 turnovers.

"It's just mental blocks," Church said. "We seem to go into funks, and forget where to go, lose our minds. That's what is hurting us right now."

The Tigers have just one senior in their guard rotation, Garan Evans, who is a better shooting guard option. Sophomore Braion Owens and freshman Al Young have also taken turns running the point, as has junior Sentrell Blackmon, who became eligible only after the Christmas break.

"Some of it is inexperience, but we can't play that card now," Church said. "We seem to get in a hurry, and try to do things we can't do. We just have to keep working and try to fix those things."

The Central girls basketball team finds itself mired in a slump that also perplexes coach Sherri Shirrell.

After starting the season 6-2, the Tigers have dropped eight of their last nine to fall to 7-10 on the season.

"It's very perplexing," Shirrell said Sunday. "We've had some good practices, and played some good games, and lost some tough games. We're up and down. We're trying to find some consistency to carry us through the rest of the season right now. We're capable of it, the players are capable of it. It's just a matter of working to achieve what they're capable of."

The slide began with a 45-43 loss to Saxony Lutheran in the final of the Kelso Holiday Classic back in December. That began a six-game skid that ended with a 60-21 win over Valley Park on Tuesday in the first round of the Hillsboro Invitational. But Friday, the Tigers fell 51-47 to seventh-seeded Freeburg (Ill.) in a semifinal, then lost the third-place game to Seckman 55-36 on Saturday.

Opponents continue to key on seniors Alayah Cooper-Johnson and Bailey Kratochvil, so Sherrill is looking for someone else to step up and be a consistent scoring threat.

"Consistently, night in and night out, those two are leading us in scoring," Sherrill said. "We need somebody that is going to step up and provide [scoring] for us. Right now, we don't have that happening."

The annual Central-Notre Dame basketball showdown takes place Tuesday at the Show Me Center. The two schools' varsity squads take to the court with the girls game at 6 p.m. followed by the boys game at about 7:30.

The rivalry also will play out on the junior varstiy level as Notre Dame's boys and girls will visit Central tonight. The action begins with a two-quarter freshman girls game at 5 p.m., followed by the junior varsity girls and junior varsity boys games.

Several area high school athletes have signed letters of intent with area colleges over the past couple weeks.

Jackson's Brooke Whitledge signed to play softball at Shawnee Community College in Ullin, Ill., this past Saturday.

Demesha Huddleston, also of Jackson, recently signed a softball scholarship with Three Rivers Community College of Poplar Bluff.

Signing scholarships with Mineral Area Community College were Liza Gray, a senior at Advance, for volleyball; and Laquesha Martin, a senior at Jackson, for softball.

Ticket sales have been brisk for Thursday's Sikeston-Charleston boys basketball showdown at the Show Me Center. A limited number of courtside seats still are available for $25, with $12 reserved seats at midcourt. General admission is $7 for adults, $5 for students. Junior varsity action begins at 6 p.m., with the varsity game following at about 7:30.

Sikeston (17-1) holds the top spot in Class 4 in the current MBCA/MOsports.com poll, with Charleston (18-2) at No. 2 in Class 3.

Sikeston owns the win in the lone meeting between these two powerhouses this season, a 71-61 victory in the final of the SEMO Conference Tournament in early December at the Sikeston Field House.

Speaking of polls, Leopold (17-2) is ranked fifth and Oak Ridge (15-5) 10th in Class 1 in the latest MBCA/MOsports.com boys poll. Oran (17-3) in seventh in Class 2.

On the girls side, Saxony Lutheran (17-1) is fifth in Class 3, the only area girls team ranked in the top 10 of any class. Notre Dame (14-3) has received votes in Class 4, but not enough to break into the top 10.

The Scott County Central boys basketball team isn't having a vintage season, but Chaffee still notched a notable win over the vaunted program Friday night.

Chaffee rolled past the visiting Braves 64-47. According to the Sikeston Standard-Democrat, it was the Red Devils' first victory over SCC since Dec. 29, 2000 -- a span of 12 years.

The 12-8 Red Devils appear to stand a strong chance of notching their third straight winning season. Until going 15-13 in 2010-11, Chaffee previously had not posted a winning record in 31 years. The Red Devils were 16-12 last year.

-- From staff reports

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