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Tourney semifinal features athletic matchup of Scott Central and E.P.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

MORLEY - The semifinals of the Scott-Miss. Conference Tournament being held at Scott County Central High School are set for tonight.

At 7:30 p.m., the East Prairie Eagles will battle the Scott County Central Braves followed by the Oran Eagles taking on the Scott City Rams at 9 p.m.

East Prairie (10-4) has won four straight games after defeating the Kelly Hawks in the first round of the tournament. The Braves had won three straight games before losing to Charleston in their last outing. Scott Central (10-4) received a bye through the first round of the tournament because of the No. 1 seed.

The Eagles first-year head coach Matt Schonhoff is pleased with the effort of his club so far this season.

"I believe the kids have adjusted well to a brand new coach and system," said Schonhoff. "The kids seem to enjoy our up-tempo style of play. We give them certain freedoms in the offense and defense that allow them to not be afraid to try new things. The guys can gamble on defense and they get plenty of opportunities on the offensive end to score."

East Prairie is led by 6-foot-2 junior Tony Jones who is averaging 18 points and 12 rebounds per game.

Interim head coach Ronnie Cookson of Scott Central is well aware of the problems presented by Jones.

"The Jones kid is a fine athlete," said Cookson. "He is a good jumper down in the paint and works extremely hard. He might be one of the best rebounders in the area. He is a handful. I don't know what we can do with him. We are going to have to block him out off the boards and try to contain him as much as possible."

The Eagles also have a dynamic backcourt with seniors Randy Woods (5-8) and Paris Tipler (5-8) along with sophomore M.C. Williams (5-6). Woods and Tipler both average around 14 points apiece, while Williams is pumping in around nine points a contest.

East Prairie will return the services of 6-2 forward Tyler Branam, who has missed the last several games for the Eagles with a sprained ankle. Branam is averaging around 10 points and seven rebounds per game and will solidify the low blocks for East Prairie.

The Eagles play a fast-paced style on offense and defense. The main goal of the offense is to work the ball low to Jones and the guards can either hit the long 3-pointer or take the ball hard to the basket.

On defense, East Prairie implements a full-court zone press and usually falls back in a half-court zone. The main worry for Eagle fans is that Jones, who has shown the knack for picking up early fouls, is on the floor at the end of the game.

"I have watched East Prairie play and they get after you," said Cookson. "We are going to try and pressure them if we can. We press everybody and that is not going to change tonight. Against their full-court pressure, we just have to be patient and work the ball down the floor. They have a good press and cover all the areas. We just have to be patient."

The Braves have a solid core of guards and forwards that lead an up-tempo offense. Juniors D.D. Gillespie (5-10) and Caleb Johnson (6-1) are mainstays of the Scott Central offense.

Gillespie can either beat a defender from the outside or off the dribble to the rim, while Johnson is a strong low post player who is capable of hitting the long range jumper.

Sophomore Drew Thomas (6-0) has had some monster games of late and is starting to become a reliable scoring force for the Braves.

Scott Central's defense is predicated with a suffocating full-court press, with an in your face man-to-man halfcourt defense

"Scott Central's ability to score in transition scares me," said Schonhoff. "They are extremely quick down the floor and can beat you with jump shots or lay-

ups. On defense, their pressure is difficult to handle. They also do a great job of crashing the boards and blocking out."

Illness has hit the Scott Central squad hard according to Cookson, but everybody should be ready for tonight's action.

Schonhoff expects both teams will put on a good show for the fans.

"Both teams like to pressure and get up and down the floor," said Schonhoff. "Our kids are in excellent shape and I know coach Cookson has his guys in prime condition. We plan on playing our style game and hope we can handle what they throw at us. It should be a very fun game to watch."

The winners of the semifinal matchups will play in the championship game on Friday at 9 p.m. The third place game is set to tip at 6 p.m.