After stretching their win streak to 12 games Tuesday with a 45-36 victory over Nashville at the Nashville Invitational Tournament, the Central Cougars and their coach both agreed on one thing:
It’s all about the defense.
Central senior Jack Strieker not only led his team in scoring with 16 points. He also limited Nashville scoring threat Ryan Brink to just four points and a 2-for-10 shooting night.
“It’s wear on the body, but a lot of rest helps a lot,” Strieker said of his dual role as scorer and shut-down defender. “I like challenges, and it drives me to try to shut down their best player.”
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Strieker did, but he had help from his teammates as the Cougars swarmed the Hornets all night at the defensive end as they moved to 2-0 at the tourney. Central also defeated Nashville 51-42 on Dec. 30 in the championship game of the Mater Dei Christmas Tournament.
“We just talked about our defense and how good our defense was,” Central coach Jeremy Shubert said. “Ryan has had two points in 64 minutes of basketball against Jack Strieker. You can’t say enough about Jack and how we just were able to shut Ryan Brink down; Ryan Brink’s a great high school player. I’ve got to credit our defense.”
Nashville missed its first seven shots before Brogan Kemp finally broke through with 1:57 remaining in the first quarter. Fortunately for the Hornets, the Cougars had scored only four points by then.
A 3-pointer by Tyler Joest gave the Cougars a 15-6 lead early in the second quarter, but six points in the quarter by Kemp helped the Hornets (12-7) stay within 21-14 of Central at halftime.
We lost a lot of scoring (to graduation), and we were just trying to find our roles. It just clicked one game, and we’ve been rolling ever since.
Central Cougars senior Jack Strieker
“They played good defense,” Nashville coach Brad Weathers said after his team lost its second-straight game at the tournament. “On and off through the first half, we had several mental mistakes which really cost us, and good teams will do that to you.”
The Cougars also drained 19 of their 33 shots (57 percent), including two big ones from Strieker with the Hornets threatening a comeback in the fourth quarter.
Joest had 15 points for Central, while senior guard Kolby Schulte added nine. Brogan Kemp led Nashville with 12 points before fouling out with 1:31 remaining, and Bryson Bultman scored eight points.
Central’s 12-game win streak began Dec. 9 against Red Bud following a 51-41 loss at Teutopolis.
Teutopolis 73, Mascoutah 49
Brant Bueker added 14 points, and Lane Belleville had 12 for Teutopolis (16-1), which is ranked fifth in the latest Class 2A state poll and has lost only to Mt. Carmel. The Wooden Shoes lost three of four games at the Nashville Invitational last season.
Malik Green led Mascoutah (9-10) with 11 points, and Blake Weiss had 10.