CAPE GIRARDEAU -- Cape Central played half of Tuesday's boys basketball game at home without top players Scott Chestnutt and Ryan Delph due to foul trouble.
Already undermanned with power forward Mitch Craft out with an ankle injury, Central's (16-8) foul trouble was too much to overcome as state-ranked Charleston (21-3) avoided the foul bug and cruised to a 64-55 SEMO Conference win.
Despite an 11-2 run to open the game by the Blue Jays, the Tigers kept within striking distance of Charleston with a 10-5 run that pulled Central within five after one quarter. After losing Delph to his third foul with 6:26 left in the second quarter, the Tigers were dealt the fatal blow when Chestnutt picked up back-to-back fouls with 3:35 left in the half. After picking up a double-foul and matching double-technical in the first quarter, Chestnutt's two second-quarter fouls gave him four before halftime.
Central coach Derek McCord said playing against a strong team like Charleston, it's hard to recover after losing a top player so early.
"You want to be at full strength," he said.
With Chestnutt on the bench, the Blue Jays dominated the boards and built a 13-point lead late in the half. "That's when we want to go to the inside," Charleston coach Danny Farmer said. "His presence makes a difference." Central forward Corey Bowman, who replaced Chestnutt, said the Tigers simply didn't do a good enough job on the boards in Chestnutt's absence.
"We could have rebounded a little better," he said. "Boxing out kind of killed us."
Charleston built a 17-point lead early in the third quarter with Chestnutt watching from the bench. To stop the Blue Jay push, McCord went to Chestnutt with 3:35 left in the third quarter, a move that paid off immediately.
With Chestnutt back in, the Tigers cut the lead to 10 with a little over a minute left in the third, but the Tigers' momentum wouldn't last. Ashton Farmer's 3-pointer with less than a minute left put the Blue Jays back up 13, a lead they would maintain for most of the fourth quarter.
Although Charleston's lead proved insurmountable, Central continued to pressure the Blue Jays and outscored Charleston 22-18 in the final quarter.
McCord said Central is not the type of team to lay down. "Our kids showed a lot of character," he said. "We were undermanned, but we didn't quit."
Despite the loss, McCord pointed to many positives. Central was out-rebounded by only three and forced 15 turnovers, while only committing nine. Chestnutt finished with 13 points and 14 rebounds in little more than two quarters.
"Our kids realize we've made some strides this year," he said. "But we have a lot more work to do."
For Farmer and the Blue Jays, after picking up a grinding win over the Tigers they now will turn their attention to the Southeast Missourian No. 1 team, Poplar Bluff. The squads square off Friday night for the SEMO Conference title. "We feel great," Farmer said. "The Bluff game will be a real test."
The Tigers will host DeSoto in their final regular-season game Friday night. Win or lose, McCord said this team still has a lot of basketball ahead of them.
For the Tigers, Bowman finished with nine points and six rebounds. Will Johnson added 12 points and six rebounds. Kewain Gant had 14 points for Charleston and Farmer added 13.
CAPE GIRARDEAU -- Poplar Bluff overcame a determined Notre Dame effort to defeat the visiting Bulldogs 76-65 Tuesday night in boys basketball.
The Mules improved to 21-2 and remained undefeated in SEMO Conference playing setting up a game with Charleston Friday night for the conference title.
Travis Siebert scored 26 points for the 17-7 Bulldogs, including 18 in the first half as Notre Dame trailed just 35-34. The Bulldogs were behind 59-56 entering the final period before the Mules pulled away.
Wayne Essner added 13 points for Notre Dame.
Tyler Hansbrough, a 6-foot-8 sophomore center, had 20 points and 15 rebounds to lead the Mules. Also scoring in double figures were Cheron Pearson with 17 points, Tony Webb with 13 and Desi Higgs with 10.
Notre Dame ends its regular season Friday night, visiting Perryville.
ZALMA -- Zalma ended its three-game losing streak and Leopold's four game winning streak with a home victory. Zalma (7-11) held a 10 point lead at halftime, but Leopold cut into the lead in the third quarter. The Wildcats trailed by only two at the start of the fourth but could only manage eight points.
Chad (14) and Curt (16) Wisemen combined for 30 points for Zalma. Nick Hartman had 16 and Jamie Mangrum added 13. Kevin Holzum led Leopold with 16 and Paul Hutchings added 11.
ESSEX - Zach Dill scored 13 of his game-high 35 points in the first quarter and Chad Wooldridge added 27 as the Bernie Mules improved to 10-11 on the year with a 76-41 defeat of the Richland Rebels Tuesday night.
According to Bernie coach Morris Karnes, it was "a game where we were able to push the ball a little more than we have in some other games. We got good defensive board work (26 as a team), which allowed us to get out and get some easy transition baskets, and good scoring from Zach Dill and Chad Wooldridge."
Wooldridge scored 12 points in the second period as the Mules took a 34-22 lead at the half.
Mike Harlan paced the Rebels with 20 points. The junior varsity Rebels defeated Bernie 42-24 to earn a split on the night as Blake Waters poured in 21 points. Britt Arnold led the Mules with nine points.