Central senior Tyler Joest scored 20 points, and two teammates also scored in double figures Friday as the Cougars defeated Cahokia Conference rival Carlyle 59-49 at the 57th annual Mater Dei Christmas Tournament.
Just 15 hours after dropping a close decision to Okawville, the Cougars (6-5) jumped out to an 18-15 lead after one quarter. Joest, an athletic 6-foot-9 center, spearheaded the Cougars’ fast start with eight points as Central took a lead it would not relinquish, improving to 2-1 in pool play.
But the story of the game was the physical play of both teams. The game featured 49 fouls and included three double-fouls as the two Clinton County rivals battled for 32 minutes.
“This tournament is just balanced. You know that every game is going to be a real battle, and that was the case here,” Central coach Jeremy Shubert said. “But the thing I noticed here the last couple of days is that the team that gets out to a fast start and rebounds well usually has come out on top. We got out fast and beat a good Carlyle team.”
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Joest scored eight of his points in the first quarter and ended the first half with 12 points as the Cougars took the lead. Simon Thomas added 14 points, while Camden Wempe chipped in with 12 points and grabbed 10 of the Cougars’ 24 rebounds. Carlyle won the battle on the boards 26-24.
The win, coupled with an Okawville loss to Mascoutah in four overtimes later on Friday, put the Cougars in the driver’s seat to reach the title game. With a win over Highland later on Friday, the Cougars would advance to face undefeated Briarcrest Christian (Tenn.) in the title game at 7:30 p.m. Saturday. The result of the Central-Highland game was unavailable at press time.
The Indians (5-8) were led by senior Tyler Siever. The 6-3 guard scored nine of his 19 points in the first quarter but was held scoreless in the next two periods as the Cougars extended their lead.
Trailing 35-24 at halftime, Carlyle wasted a golden opportunity to draw close in the opening minutes of the third quarter. The Indians missed six shots — including four from point-blank range — in the first three minutes of the second half.
“It was a typical Central-Carlyle game. It was very physical,” Carlyle coach Andy Palmer said. “We didn’t shoot free throws well in the second half (6 of 16), but I thought the big part of the game was in the opening minutes of the second half.
“We had four shots within three feet of the basket that we didn’t convert on. If we make those shots, maybe it’s a different game coming down the stretch.”
Carlyle was still within striking distance late in the fourth quarter. Siever got loose for 10 fourth-quarter points, but the Cougars made enough free throws to extend their final margin of victory to 10 points.