Tigers debut big in new home

Wednesday, December 18, 2002

The Central Tigers took their first test drive in their brand-new basketball gymnasium Tuesday night.

They found the ambiance to their liking. Plenty of orange and black and "The Jungle" -- the student body -- transplanted and as zany as ever. The walls were a little closer than their previous home and provided a needed boost in the decibel level.

But most importantly, the scoreboard seemed to work much better than at the previous setting.

In the end, it read: Central 58, Caruthersville 47.

The win equaled Central's entire home win total from last year.

"It was fun. We never had a crowd behind us like that since we've been in high school," said Tiger junior Ryan Delph, who scored a game-high 19 points and pulled down 13 rebounds.

In step with their gym, the Tigers (4-2) also appear to have a newness after a 4-21 season.

"Everyone's playing as a team," Delph said. "We're not playing as individuals. Nobody is putting their heads down. Everyone has kept their heads up at practice and in games."

Contrary to popular belief, the gym did not come equipped with 6-foot-8 sophomore Scott Chestnutt, who added 10 points for the Tigers along with guard Will Johnson.

Chestnutt, a transfer student, is making his presence felt. He scored 32 points in his fifth high school game ever his last time out.

"We had to look up to everyone last year," Delph noted.

Johnson scored six of his points on two 3-pointers after receiving kick outs from Chestnutt, who finished with six assists.

Chestnutt was content to hurt Caruthersville with his passing.

"The thing is, if they're going to triple team me, I'll just kick it out," Chestnutt said.

It's part of a team concept that has the Tigers gaining confidence with each passing game.

"We're playing together," senior Anthony Harris said. "That's the key for our success."

The Tigers never trailed Caruthersville in foiling the Cape Giraradeau coaching debut of Brian Brandtner. Brandtner, an assistant coach at Notre Dame last year, saw his own Tigers fall to 5-3.

With the score tied 6-6 in the first quarter, Jake Knepp put Central ahead for good with a 3-pointer with 3:41 left. Marshane Foreman cut the lead to 9-8 moments later, but Caruthersville would not score again until the 1:42 mark of the second quarter. Over the nine-minute span, Caruthersville went scoreless on 17 trips down the floor, missing 14 straight shots.

Caruthersville also missed its first 12 3-pointers of the game, including several by Southeast Missouri State University recruit Chris Springer. Springer, who came in averaging 20 points a game, was held to 15.

"I started off with a slow night," Springer said. "The second half I started kicking in, but not much."

Central used Caruthersville's scoring drought to put together a14-0 run. Delph put back an offensive rebound with 2:40 left in the half for a 23-8 lead. Kyle Hubbard ended the drought with a 3-pointer, but Central took a 28-16 lead into halftime.

Caruthersville never threatened in the second half. They got as close as nine points midway through the third quarter, but Central pushed the lead to as many as 19 in the fourth quarter.

jbreer@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 124

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