For three quarters, the Central Bulldogs used an energetic and active defense to keep close with the Joplin Eagles.
However, a young Bulldogs squad couldn’t quite carry over that defense to a fourth quarter that saw Joplin score 13 unanswered points. The Eagles would go on to win 65-49 at The Pit on Tuesday night.
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“I owe that to the fact that we have a lot of young guys,” said Central coach Armando Johnson. “We have a lot of sophomores who get a lot of playing time. Kids not used to playing at this level, it’s a new thing for them. It’s a big adjustment.”
“We have guys starting now that probably didn’t touch the floor at the beginning of the season. They’re sophomores who are starting to step up.”
Tre Robinson’s basket put Central within 51-43 early in the fourth quarter. Joplin then ripped off 13 straight points to send the Bulldogs to 3-12 overall on the season.
After the game, Johnson had a couple of specific plays lingering in his head.
“On a very crucial possession, we had a kid miss a box out,” Johnson said. “It’s a part of our emphasis every game; we have to box out and we have to take three charges. A kid drives baseline, no one steps up and takes the charge. Then, Landon Shelton steps up and we think he gets the charge, but the call went the other way and it kind of took (momentum) away from us.”
Central dug itself out of an early hole with a trapping half-court defense geared around getting the ball out of Joplin junior point guard Charlie Brown’s hands.
“Everybody around here knows that kid and knows how good he is,” Johnson said of Brown. “We weren’t going to let him hurt us. And they eventually did a really good job of finding that guy on the back line and breaking down our defense, and our guys didn’t do a great job of playing in the middle.”
Brown tallied 18 points. Missouri State men’s basketball coach Paul Lusk was in attendance, likely to get a glimpse of Brown.
The Bulldogs trailed 27-21 at halftime. Joplin also beat Central 64-51 in the Bulldogs’ season opener Nov. 27.
D’Angelo Bedell, a sophomore, led Central with 18 points.
While his team has just three wins, Johnson is upbeat about the future. The Bulldogs’ JV has won 11 straight games, and Johnson said more height and another good freshmen class will be added to the program next season.
Next up for Central is the NEO Tournament Jan. 24-26. Joplin (11-4 overall) plays this Friday at Rolla.
Joplin 65, Central 49
Joplin 15 12 19 19 --- 65
Central 6 15 18 10 --- 49
Joplin – Charlie Brown 18, Adam St. Peter 18, Abe Hueller 10, Daniel Stokes 7, Chase Hall 5, Tucker Wallace 4, Dillon McVay 3
Central – D’Angelo Bedell 18, Landon Shelton 10, Tre Robinson 6, Steven Jones 6, Tavion Neal 6, Brad Hardin 2, Deon Hodges 1
Central B 42, Joplin B 32
Central freshmen 44, Joplin freshmen 27