Scott Central (4-1), ahead 35-30 at the half, outbanged and outscored Saxony 21-6 in the third quarter to break the game wide open.
"We came out in the third quarter and Caleb (Johnson) got on the boards," said Scott Central coach Ronnie Cookson. "He did a tremendous job of rebounding. He put three or four offensive rebounds back in and that really broke their backs."
Caleb Johnson, the Braves 6-1 all-stater, opened the second half with a conventional 3-point play, triggering a personal 13-point third-quarter output that helped push the Braves to a 56-36 lead going into the final period.
Saxony Lutheran coach John Daniel, whose Crusaders suffered their first loss against three wins, said he thought his kids played hard but couldn't match the strength of the Braves.
"They played a lot stronger and that was evidenced in the second half, on the boards," he said. "In the first few minutes of the third quarter, they came out and jumped on us. Coach Cookson was over there yelling and getting them fired up and I told the kids that they were going to turn it up about five notches and we'd better come out and turn it up six notches. But, we didn't and they did."
The Braves scored 11 second-half putbacks and also forced seven critical turnovers in the decisive third quarter.
"Our quickness was the difference," Cookson said. "I thought the kids played a real good floor game and did a good job on defense."
Saxony's Daniel said, "I really wasn't that upset about the turnovers. The other story to the game was that when we did break the press, we didn't attack (the basket)."
The game opened like a rout in the making. Scott Central rushed to an 11-2 lead early, but the Crusaders crept back to trail by seven at the end of the first quarter, 19-12, then by five at the half.
"They came right back on us and that's the sign of a good ballclub," said Cookson. "We didn't shake 'em when we had 'em down. They stayed cool and kept drumming it inside. They're a good ballclub, well-coached."
Scott Central received double-figure scoring from four players, led by 6-3 post Richard Brownlee, who continued his season-long consistent play with a game-high 22 points. Johnson finished with 21, sophomore Drew Thomas had 18, including two treys, and another all-stater, guard D.D. Gillespie added 11. Freshman Bobby Hatchett chipped in with seven points and a handful of steals as the defensive catalyst.
Although no bench player figured in Scott Central's scoring, Cookson praised the reserves' contributions.
"It was definitely a team effort," he said. "Even those kids that came off the bench did a great job for a few minutes so we could rest them (starters) just a little bit."
Alex Jauch paced the Crusaders with 18 points while Ben Courtois and Austin Kwikkel had 13 apiece.
Scott Central fell 47-41 to Saxony Lutheran, in the junior varsity contest. Ballhandling miscues hurt the Braves down the stretch as Saxony hit 4-of-4 free throws in the closing seconds to seal the win.
John Rhoden and Tyler Gilliland led the Braves' scoring with 15 and 11 points, respectively. Gavin Pringle topped Saxony with 13.
Scott Central meets Bell City in the Heartland Hoopfest at the Perryville Park Center on Saturday at 2:20 p.m.