As much as Ozark tried to let them, the Central Bulldogs couldn’t get over the hump Friday night.
Despite committing 19 turnovers and going 10 of 28 at the free throw line, the Tigers held on for a 61-52 win in Ozark.
“Early in the year you’re going to have some ugly wins,” Ozark coach Steve Hunter said. “You just hope they’re not ugly losses.”
There wasn’t much pretty from either team for much of the game. Central’s last lead came at 21-20 early in the second quarter, but Ozark never led by more than 11 the rest of the contest.
Central was within six with 3:36 to play before Ozark was able to close things out.
“We were missing a lot of kids finishing on some plays,” Central coach Armando Johnson said. “We just need that one more kid to step up. We lost by nine, and we need that kid that can get us 10.”
Still, Johnson said, it was the Bulldogs’ best effort of the season.
Central lost to Ozark 83-24 last year as part of an 0-16 start. But the Bulldogs (1-2) beat Nevada in their second game this season and took another step Friday, Johnson said.
“This was hands down our best game all year,” Johnson said. “Yesterday we didn’t even practice the first 30 or 40 minutes after school. We just talked about pride. In our school, in ourselves. We feel like we have some kids who are athletic, but they’re not living up to their potential. I think we did that a little better tonight.”
They just couldn’t quite do enough.
Ozark ended the first half on an 8-2 run to go up 32-25, and the lead stayed between four and 11 the rest of the way.
Senior Brett Krisik led the Tigers with 19 points, 3 rebounds, three steals and two blocked shots. Thirteen of those points and nine of those rebounds were in the first half.
Nick Cookinham added 11 points and nine rebounds, and Noah Nelson came off the bench to score 10 points.
The Tigers battled themselves just as much as Central. Krisik, Cookinham and Jakob Neidig battled foul trouble much of the night, with Neidig picking up two fouls in the first quarter. The senior guard still finished with five points and seven rebounds. Junior Korbin Evans, averaging 15 points a game, left the contest with an ankle injury midway through the second quarter and didn’t return.
Ozark also had 19 turnovers to nullify the 22 turnovers from Central.
And then there was the free throw shooting. Ozark was 5 of 13 in the fourth quarter, missing its first five attempts while trying to hang on to the lead.
“I thought we played hard, but we had a bad week of practice,” Hunter said. “Our intensity in practice hasn’t matched what we need in games. And I think that hurts you, because you get into a game and you’re not sure what you can do.”
D’Angelo Bedell led Central with 15 points, going 3 of 6 from 3-point range. Darius Gibbs had 12 points and 11 rebounds, and Quatrevius Robinson finished with nine points.
“We told the kids today was a defining game for us,” Johnson said. “The kids are so much more experienced than last year. I think after Christmas we’re going to be having a lot of fun at Central.”