Springfield Central was everything Miami expected - and probably a little more.
The Missouri Class 5 Bulldogs, coming off a 17-point win over Joplin on Tuesday, rolled to a 57-43 decision over MHS Thursday in the first round of the Northeastern A&M High School Basketball Tournament.
“Athletically, they are a lot for us to handle,” Miami coach Rusty Mercer said. “They caused us a lot of problems with their athleticism. The scary thing is two of their best players were out because of injuries.”
The Wardogs, who led just once all night, hope to bounce back tonight in the Boys' Blue bracket when they face Wagoner - a team they played 10 days ago.
“We knew going in that a couple of things would have had to have happened for us,” Mercer said. “We had to do a good job on the boards (MHS held an 11-3 edge in offensive rebounds) and that was surprising with the way the score wound up.
“We knew we would have to shoot the ball well and hope they didn't,” Mercer said. “We shot horrible (15 of 49) and they shot it well.”
The Dogs, who hovered around 50 percent from 2-point range, found the mark on only 8 of 25 attempts in Thursday's game at the NEO Student Activity Center. They were 7 of 26 from 3-point range.
“We were tentative around the basket and in the lanes,” Mercer said. “They did a good job covering us, denying our guards lot of penetration. Consequently, it made for a long night. We did get some good looks from 3 with our shooters; we just didn't hit enough of them.”
Central led 16-11 after the first quarter then outscored the Dogs 13-10 in the second frame.
The Bulldogs picked up the pace in the third, using a 9-2 run to start the quarter to balloon the lead to 37-23.
Another rally, this time an 8-2 spree, staked Central to its biggest lead of the night, 47-31.
The Missourians put the wraps on their 15th win in 20 starts with a 12-9 run over the final eight minutes.
“We've got to bounce back,” Mercer said. “We've got two really tough games coming up in the tournament. Our guys will continue to fight. We will see what we can do tomorrow night.”
The Miami-Wagoner game tips off at 8 p.m. at the Dogdome.
Miami wraps up tournament play Saturday with a x p.m. clash with defending bracket champ Mannford.
The Pirates nipped Wagoner 54-51 in Thursday's other Boys' Blue contest.
Michael Anderson had a game-high 18 points for the Wardogs. He got 11 of that in the first half.
The Wardogs turned the ball over 18 times.
“That's a lot for us the way we handle the basketball,” Mercer said.
Junior forward Michael Hampton had 17 points and J.T. Small, a 6-2 senior swing man, had 16 points for Central. Small had 10 points by halftime, getting seven of that in the opening quarter.