PARK HILLS – The Central girls basketball team relied on experience and composure to thrive yet again during the closing minutes of a tight battle.
The Lady Rebels delivered a pivotal 8-0 scoring run in the fourth quarter on Monday night after trailing throughout the previous 10 minutes of action.
Senior guard Skyler Amonette, whose recent heroics helped capture Christmas Tournament title, sank 8-of-9 free throws down the stretch as Central closed out Poplar Bluff 73-63.
Caitlyn Holmes scored a game-high 21 points despite spending extended time on the bench with foul trouble, and the Lady Rebels (13-1) earned their seventh straight victory.
Poplar Bluff (9-5) was plagued by fouls in a more widespread manner as post players Doni Everts and Sierra Sievers each picked up their fourth personals near the midway juncture of the third quarter.
Sophomore guard Kiley Bess netted 17 points, and the visiting Lady Mules handled the Central defensive pressure reasonably well to finish the game with one fewer turnover.
Poplar Bluff grabbed a 58-57 lead when Everts drained two free throws after making a steal and drawing Holmes’ fourth foul in the backcourt with 6:01 remaining.
Central responded by scoring on four of its next five possessions, starting with a catch and quick release in the lane by freshman Sophia Horton for the go-ahead basket.
Amonette stripped the ball moments later, sparked the ensuing fast break with a pass from a seated position, and ran the floor to score the transition layup.
Karissa Belfield increased the Central lead to 65-58 on a bounce pass from Horton, and Amonette made four straight attempts from the line after and Everts jumper cut the margin to three.
Amonette finished with 20 points, seven assists and four steals overall. Holmes converted four of her passes into field goals during a back-and-fourth third quarter.
The Lady Rebels finished 23-of-37 from the line after failing to capitalize on a multitude of chances in the second quarter. The Lady Mules made 10-of-15 free throws in defeat.
Poplar Bluff entered halftime with a 38-36 edge after Bess grabbed a rebound and drove the length of the court to bank in a runner just before time expired.
She opened the third quarter with a 3-pointer, and the difference hovered between one and five until Central finally seized control.
Horton notched 11 of her 14 points during the first half, and filled an important role by finishing entry passes into the post when Holmes or forward Callie Thurston were resting.
Belfield finished with 10 points, and Thurston collected a game-high 10 rebounds. Central gained an early 18-7 lead on an Amonette layup after Belfield finished an outlet pass from Avery Norris.
Poplar Bluff recovered from several missed layups in the early going for a solid 16-4 run, and surged ahead for the first time at 23-22 when Hannah Corcimiglia hit an open 3-pointer.
Shelby Sievers tallied 11 points with seven rebounds, and Everts scored nine for the Lady Mules.
Central will travel to Farmington on Thursday for a key MAAA Large-School conference game.
Ste. Genevieve 64, Bismarck 13
STE. GENEVIEVE – Sydney Bumgardaner totaled 16 points with four steals, and Ste. Genevieve rolled past Bismarck 64-13 at home.
Avery Reed recorded another double-double with 14 points and 12 rebounds, and also had a team-high six steals for the Dragons.
Ste. Genevieve (8-3) carried a 40-3 lead into halftime.
Brooklynn Fitzwater scored 12 points for Bismarck (0-12).