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Inside of the Rapid City Central boys' basketball locker room, there is white board with words that coach T.J. Hay wants the Cobblers to keep in mind as they get ready to take the court.

One of those words is grit, and Central would need every once of grit it had to get a win against Pierre Saturday at home.

In a low-scoring game, the Cobblers did just that, using a stifling second half defense to gut-out a 38-29 win and improve to 5-4 on the season and win their fourth straight.

"We’re just getting enough done to get some wins," Hay said. "Once they get a taste of it, I hope it propels into a better week of practice because we didn’t have a great week of practice. I think if we keep getting better and the guys on the bench keep contributing like they did today, we can do some good things."

Central went 15-of-35 from the field, good for 42.9 percent. Hay said he wasn't happy that his team only shot 35.3 percent from the field in the first half, but was happy overall with the way his defense rose to the challenge when the shots weren't falling.

"I think the biggest thing is we only gave up 29 points," he said. "Even when we weren’t scoring like we have in the last several games, we played well enough defensively and didn’t give up a lot of open looks, and when we did give up open looks they didn’t knock them down."

The Governors ended the first quarter with a 11-9 lead and led 20-16 at halftime. Hay said 20 points in a half is a good place for his defense to be, but was especially happy that his team only gave up nine points in the second half.

Grey Zabel dominated in the paint in the first half for Pierre. He had 12 points and was able to get the ball and establish himself in the post with ease in the first 16 minutes.

Zabel was held scoreless in the second half and still ended up leading all scorers. Hay said some defensive adjustments were made that made it harder for him to get the ball and then harder for him to get a good look at the basket if he did.

"We’re not beefy inside like they are but we do have some length and I thought we did a good job, he really didn’t have many looks," he said. "We did give up some open looks on the perimeter but we were fortunate to get some rebounds on the misses."

Central ended the game with a 30-21 rebounding advantage. 

The third quarter ended with the score tied at 25, and late in the fourth quarter the Cobblers held a slight 31-29 lead before ending the game on a 7-0 run in the last two minutes.

Central's leading scorer was Gavyn Strand who had nine points and six rebounds, Elijah Williams also kicked in seven points and five rebounds.

Pierre ended the game 12-of-43 for 27.9 percent from the field, which included 4-of-22 for 18.2 percent in the second half. 

The Cobblers ended the game with 21 turnovers while Pierre had 16, the turnovers and shooting is something that he wants to see improve, but he thinks getting back into the routine of going to school will help his players get in better game shape and correct some of the issues.

After starting 1-4, Central is now over the .500 mark. He said his group knows what the team that finished fourth in the Class AA state tournament last season lost with 11 seniors graduating, but said he doesn't think it cares that much.

"I think our guys are focused in," he said. "They understand that there’s not a lot of people that think we’re going to win many games after losing 11 seniors and how successful we were last year; but they aren’t worried about what happened last year. They’re focused and hopefully we can get better, take care of the ball better and I told them it’s better to win ugly than the alternative."

The Cobblers will go for their fifth straight win Thursday when they travel to face Sturgis. Pierre, 2-4, will host Mitchell Friday. 

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Contact Geoff Preston at geoffrey.preston@rapidcityjournal.com

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Sports Reporter

Sports reporter for the Rapid City Journal.