PARK HILLS – Kendall Horton opened the game with an emphatic block, and capped the first half by tipping in a missed 3-pointer as time expired.
The Central boys basketball team hustled its way to a second victory this season over North County, this time pulling away 74-53 on Friday evening.
Sophomore guard Jobe Bryant again slashed through traffic to compile a game-high 26 points plus six assists, and the Rebels committed just eight turnovers while coaxing 14.
Horton was an offensive catalyst with nine of his 15 points coming in the first quarter, and finished superb passes from teammates on determined cuts to the rim.
Central (10-2, 1-0) carried a 35-25 advantage into halftime, and ultimately triumphed behind a 12-2 run to close the third quarter before seamlessly slowing the tempo in its conference opener.
North County (6-7, 1-1) hoped for a better fate compared to the Christmas Tournament third-place clash, but its physical presence did not discourage the Rebels from attacking.
Junior guard Kooper Kekec tallied a team-high 11 points for the Raiders before fouling out, and dished driving assists to Jobe Smith and Andrew Civey for an early 11-7 lead.
North County attempted often to draw charging fouls through its defensive position, but was only rewarded on a couple of occasions. Central otherwise capitalized with layups and free throws.
Grant Manion connected with Horton on an outlet pass late in the first quarter. Bryant zipped a no-look bullet to Horton moments later, then drilled a pull-up jumper for a 17-15 Central lead.
The Rebels created modest separation when Manion sank a 3-pointer at 26-19. He added another prior to the break while also compiling seven assists and six rebounds overall.
Nolan Reed grabbed eight rebounds for North County while equaling Jobe Smith with 10 points, as the Rebels placed defensive focus on containing the leading scorer.
Layne Wigger finished with nine points, and was afforded minimal room to dribble or shoot as Horton and Caden Casey switched the primary guarding assignment in the first half.
Kekec cruised to the basket for a layup, but was answered by Casey on a baseline drive before Horton fired an interior dart to Zack Boyd for the largest Central lead of 39-28 to that juncture.
Bryant added a couple of smooth jumpers, then showed off the perimeter stroke with a couple of 3-pointers along the left wing in the third quarter.
The Raiders made one staunch approach at a comeback with a sudden 8-0 spurt. Smith converted a steal on a dazzling scoop through contact. Wigger followed with a 3-pointer, and Grant Mullins trimmed the deficit to 46-40 on another steal and uncontested finish.
Triston Stewart and Casey each drew stern contact after making steals in response, and Bryant drained his third triple of the stanza to restore a 56-43 lead.
Central became extra selective while widening a few possessions beyond 35 or 40 seconds, and steadily increased the difference to 70-49 on a Bryant layup after Horton earned a putback.
Stewart tallied nine points and Boyd chipped in seven as the Rebels received a scoring boost from their post players. Freshman guard Jaxon Jones added two second-half field goals off the bench.
Civey had seven points for North County, which made 13-of-19 free throws while Central overcame a subpar 8-of-18 showing.