Tigers' defense clamps down on Bulldogs

Thursday, February 14, 2013
Central’s Kassidy Pannier (21) and Alayah Cooper-Johnson block Sikeston’s Yolanda Johnson’s path to the basket. Central won 38-28. (Chris Pobst ~ Sikeston Standard-Democrat)

SIKESTON -- A simple change in defense led to a shift in Central's favor.

Switching to a man defense, the Tigers immediately shut down Sikeston's offense, holding them to just seven points in the second half and eventually leading them to a 38-28 victory at the Sikeston Field House.

"We changed our defense up and put more pressure on them defensively, " Central head coach Sherry Shirrell said. "I thought, after we talked to them at halftime, they came out with a little more fire in the second half. That's been the theme for us this year (coming out slow)."

Another huge boost for the Tigers, who have won three of their last four games, was the rebounding prowess displayed by Alayah Cooper-Johnson. The senior, who grabbed 20 rebounds, secured more boards than Sikeston combined. She also led the Lady Tigers with 13 points.

Fellow senior Katie Williams added 10 points and seven rebounds.

The second half was when Central (10-13) made its move.

The Tigers began the third quarter with a different defensive look -- man-to-man -- instead their zone, which gave up 21 first half points.

The individual pressure Central produced was more than enough to get the Bulldogs out of their offensive rhythm and handcuff Sikeston senior guard Mikala Nichols.

Sikeston scored just two points in the third quarter -- on two free throws from Erica Peet -- and Nichols was held scoreless throughout the second half after scoring all of her game-high 11 points in the first two quarters.

"We know they can shoot. We had to get out and guard them, and we didn't do a very good job of that in the first half," said Shirrell.

Williams and Cooper-Johnson put the Tigers up by four at 27-23 after they scored all nine of Central's points in the third quarter.

Kadie Orenstein helped to seal the game with six fourth quarter points.

Sikeston (6-16) scored its first field goal of the second half nearly 11 minutes after halftime, a basket by Ariana Beard that cut Central's lead to 31-25.

"We actually started running our offense (in the second half)," Shirrell said. "We didn't really get into our offense in the first half because I think we were in such a funk defensively."

Central won't have to wait much longer to see if it can be as effective in their man-to-man defense against Sikeston again as they are scheduled to see each other just 10 days from now during the first round of the Class 4, District 1 tournament at the Bearcats Event Center in Dexter.

"That's something we talked about. This is a precursor to the district tournament and we knew that coming in," Shirrell said. "We needed to make a statement."

Central108911--38
Sikeston91225--28

CENTRAL (38) -- Alayah Cooper-Johnson 13, Kelly Morton 2, Bailey Kratochvil 2, Kadie Orenstein 6, Bailey Bliss 5, Katie Williams 10. FG 12 FT 14-26 F 10. (3-pointers: none. Fouled out: Kratochvil.)

SIKESTON (28) -- Hayli Chapman 9, Mikala Nichols 11, Erica Peet 4, Ariana Beard 2, Yolanda Johnson 2. FG 12 FT 2-8 F 17. (3-pointers: Chapman 1, Nichols 1. Fouled out: Nichols.)

JV: Central won 37-21.

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