The big cats from Cape came through in spades in the SEMO Tournament with a clean push all the way through to the ceremonial trophy celebration in Sikeston. The Tigers ripped their way through Dexter, New Madrid and Jackson to claim the top prize, and are now 6-0 on the season.
The tournament kicked off against Dexter, and the Bearcats put up a good fight. They came out hot and took a 15-11 lead after the first quarter of play, but Central would explode in the second. They erupted for 23 points, highlighted by 12 from Marquel Murray, and held Dexter to just 13. The Tigers took a 34-28 lead into the break.
The second half was a tight affair, but Central managed to cling to their lead with a 10-8 third-quarter effort. The fourth was a wild one, as both teams put up 19, but the Tigers were strong at the line thanks to Maurice Boyd nailing four free throws, and they were able to hang on for the 63-55 win.
Cameron Williams led the way with 15 points, followed by Max Vogel and Murray, who each had 13. Clayton McClard, Vogel and Murray each had a pair of buckets from downtown to help push Cape into the Semifinals.
Next up was the Central Eagles by way of New Madrid, and this one would be a defensive showdown. The Eagles struck first with 13 points in the first quarter and held Cape to just 10, but the theme of the tournament so far for this Tigers team has been big second quarters. Guess what happened? Eight points from Williams led to a 17-8 advantage and Cape took the lead to end the half 27-21.
New Madrid wasn’t going away though. They won the third-quarter battle 13-8, making it a 1-point game heading into the final frame. The two Central squads traded buckets back and forth, but with the Eagles slightly trailing they were forced to foul, and foul often. The Tigers took advantage of this with six makes from the charity stripe and held on to win with a clutch 49-47 victory to send them to the Finals.
Williams paced the offense again with another 15 points, while Murray and Latroy McIntosh each had 10 to round out the scorers in double figures.Williams was responsible for the team’s only three-pointer.
The Finals would be another defensive display, this time against budding rivals, the Jackson Indians. Both teams were undefeated coming in so fans knew this was going to be a battle, and once again the Tiger defense shined.
A 16-12 first quarter in favor of Cape set the stage, and the the Tigers pulled away a bit further in the second with an 11-7 effort. That made the score 27-19 when the halftime buzzer sounded and put the Indians in a position where they would have to climb a steep hill in addition to figuring out how to solve the Central defense.
The second half started off back and forth, but the Tigers maintained their edge and won the quarter 14-12. That gave them a double-digit cushion going into the final period, and they did not disappoint. The defense remained as stout as ever and held Jackson to just two points, never allowing them to sniff any kind of a comeback. When it was all said and done Central had themselves a 53-33 victory and some more hardware to take back to Cape Girardeau.
Williams once again led the team with 20 points, including 13 in the second half and made 8-of-10 shots from the line. Murray had 11, which included two clutch three-pointers in the first half. Jay Reynolds had a pair of treys as well and finished with nine points.
It was a fantastic effort in three fairly close games, but the Tigers showed grit, tenacity and overall great defense. That’s what Championship teams do.
The SEMO Champs will take on Farmington next as they travel on December 16th.