CAPE GIRARDEAU -- With three games in five days, including back-to-back nights, Cape Central's boys basketball team cleared the bench and finished with 12 players in the scoring column Tuesday night in a 62-39 win over Perryville at home.
Playing in his third game of the season, Mitch Craft came out and scored Central's first five points. In all, the Tigers had seven different scorers in the first quarter and grabbed a 17-10 lead.
"We had a lot of guys scoring some points," Craft said. "It's a long week for us, and it's good to get those guys minutes." While the Tigers' lead was not challenged during a slow-paced first quarter, Central finally started to get its offense in motion in the second. Central (10-3) went on a 10-0 run to start the quarter and outscored the Pirates 17-5 in the period.
"We got on top and we just established the win," Craft said. "We got on top and just made sure they couldn't catch up with us."
Todd Obergoenner scored five straight points for the Tigers in the second quarter, and Alex Espinoza added a pair to put eight Tigers in the scoring column by halftime. "That's what was good about this game tonight," Central starter Ryan Delph said. "Everyone got to show what they can do."
Out of halftime Central scored the first three baskets and pushed the lead to 40-15. Delph got the crowd on its feet with a big dunk during Central's quick 6-0 run.
Perryville (2-8) continued to fight out of halftime and hung with the Tigers. The Pirates were only outscored 14-11 in the third quarter. However, the lead would remain above 20 for most of the second half.
"I'm proud of my kids," Perryville coach Joel Roth said. "They hustle all the time, and as long as they keep playing hard they're going to get better."
In the fourth quarter the Pirates made a run of their own, using an 8-0 spurt to cut the score to 55-34. Kyle Dobbelare led the charge with six points, using his 6-foot-3 frame to outmuscle a smaller Tigers down low.
"Cape's a heck of a team," Roth said. "We knew coming in we didn't have good matchups anywhere on the floor."
Central outscored the Pirates only 14-13 in the fourth quarter. The Tigers had some problems with turnovers in the second half with players getting a little fancy with the ball.
"We've got to do a better job of taking care of the basketball," Central coach Derek McCord said. "A few times out there we tried to do too much."
Dobbelare led all scorers with 10 points for Perryville. Craft and Scott Chestnutt led Central with nine points apiece.
Central will have no time to celebrate with a home game tonight against Caruthersville, which lost to Charleston by a point earlier this season.
PERRYVILLE -- St. Vincent held off a second half run by visiting Oran. The Eagles outscored the Indians 36-22 in the second half after scoring just eight points in the first half.
Alex Armbruster led St. Vincent (2-3) with 12 points, Jacob DeWilde had 11 and Danny Rellergert had 10. Oran (1-9) was led by Garrett Roslen with 16.
SCOTT CITY -- Scott City (8-2) defeated Scott County Central (5-5) at home.
POPLAR BLUFF -- Danijel Zoric has an easy explanation for Three Rivers' second-half resurgence.
"It's all up here," Zoric said as he pointed to his head. "We are playing harder and you can see that."
The Raiders certainly are, making it three straight wins to open the season semester by cruising past Northeast Mississippi 69-43 Tuesday night at the Bess Activity Center.
In just five days, the Raiders (11-6) have nearly won half as many games they did during a disappointing 8-6 start.
"We are coming together as a team," said Zoric, who had a team-high 13 points on 6-of-10 shooting. "We put a lot of personal things aside. From game to game I feel better and I think the team feels better.
"We have six losses and we can't do anything about that, that's our record. We got better, we'll see how much."
One thing already better is their place in the Region XVI standings. Three Rivers overtook State Fair by mere percentage points in the overall standings, pulling the Raiders out of the cellar for the first time since the opening weeks of the season.
Three Rivers has used defense to turn its season around. Ranked last in the region defensively during the first 14 games, the Raiders have held their last three opponents to an average of 52.3 points per game.
That's 24 points better than the first half of the season. They had their best defensive performance of the season last night, forcing 26 turnovers while holding Northeast Mississippi to 35.7 percent shooting. The Eagles (6-5) scored just 16 second-half points.
"First semester, a lot of people didn't know what to expect," freshman Nick Covington said. "We're starting to buy in and do what it takes to win, and that's playing hard defense."
Covington had 10 points and three steals for the Raiders, whose defense offset another poor shooting night. The Raiders shot 42.9 percent but were just 5-for-23 from downtown. Steve Deken had nine points and seven rebounds.
A 9-0 run midway through the first half gave the Raiders a double-digit lead that increasingly grew as the game progressed. Three Rivers led by 17 when C.J. Hadley and Covington buried back-to-back 3s in the opening minutes of the second half. Northeast Mississippi closed the gap to 14, but a Deken basket in traffic sparked a 14-2 run that put the Eagles away.
Despite missing point guard Dereke Tipler (sprained MCL), Tony Webb (medical redshirt) and leading scorer Matt Gibson, who didn't play after missing Monday afternoon's practice, Three Rivers made it look easy against the Eagles.
"They're out, but really they're always with us," Covington said. "They're with us in practice and keep us hyped on the bench, so we're never without them, they're just not playing with us."
Three Rivers, which avenged an early-season loss to John A. Logan Saturday night, came out of the holiday break looking like a completely different team. The Raiders have emphasized their inside game and turned up the heat defensively.
Dating back to a Dec. 13 win against South Suburban, the Raiders have won four straight games by an average of 26 points.
"This probably isn't unusual. We've always made great progress in that week before the second half of the season," Three Rivers coach Gene Bess said. "I've never seen three coaches work harder than we have these last three weeks, but the guys have done it themselves."
Ahead 16-15 early, walk-on Aaron Bidewell's baseline drive sparked nine unanswered points as the Raiders began pulling away. Danny Mills followed with two free throws after Eagles forward Devon Nesbit was whistled for a technical foul, then Derrell Minner scored on a nifty pass in traffic from Zoric. A Zoric hook shot and free throw made it 25-15 with eight minutes left in the half.
Three Rivers built on a 36-27 halftime advantage with a Deken putback and Zoric basket early in the second half that gave the Raiders a 13-point lead. It quickly grew to 17 when Hadley and Covington connected from downtown.
"The way coach recruits, he recruits winners," Covington said. "Everybody said to themselves personally that we've got to make a turnaround. Everybody is trying to do their part."
Northeast Mississippi got a 3-point play from Stephen Cooper to make it 50-36, but the Raiders responded to put the Eagles away. Mills buried a short jumper while being fouled, Zoric converted down low and Chris Carr had an offensive stickback as Three Rivers went ahead 59-36. The Raiders led by 26 when Zoric followed a Covington 3-point play with a tough layin.
"There's a way of being in control of a game and not feeling too threatened when you're playing hard, guarding and rebounding," Bess said. "The thing I felt good about is we were taking care of the ball pretty good. Even though we weren't scoring proficiently, we were taking good shots and getting second shots. On the defensive end we were guarding them. We weren't giving them a lot of second shots."
Cooper had 11 points for the Eagles, who were just 4-for-21 from the field in the second half. Northeast Mississippi was outrebounded 40-28.
All 11 players that played scored for Three Rivers, which committed 17 turnovers -- four less than its season average. Carr, Hadley and Leonard Bishop Jr. had three assists apiece.
It will take a tough road win Thursday at Fort Smith-Arkansas for the Raiders to match their longest winning streak of the season.
"This game at West-Ark, I don't think we've ever gone down there and beaten them. It's another world," Bess said. "After we do that, that will show some people that we are for real."