By KYLE MAYHUGH
Herald-Whig Sports Writer
CANTON, Mo. -- Three nights after outlasting Highland for the championship of its own tournament, Canton boys basketball coach Andy Anderson knew there'd be nothing easy about the rematch.
"It's tough," said Anderson, whose team won by seven points Saturday night. "We pretty much knew what they were going to do and they knew what we were going to do. We knew they were going to come out and really get after us, get up and down the floor early, which they did.
"We needed a game like this to really dig down and see what we're made of."
The Tigers proved they're made of grit and determination.
Despite falling behind by 12 points in the first half, Canton slowly whittled the deficit down and earned a 68-63 overtime victory to run its season-opening winning streak to 12 games.
That was after Highland had the home team reeling. A 14-0 run for the Cougars spanning the end of the first quarter and start of the second gave them a 27-15 lead.
Highland's Derick Smith came out hot, scoring 12 points in the first quarter on his way to a game-high 28. Three times during the pivotal first-half run, he stole the ball and went coast-to-coast to score in transition, including a three-point play at the buzzer of the first quarter.
Canton's David McReynolds said the Tigers weren't used to being that far down.
"This year, we haven't really had that problem, so I guess it's a good way to get us ready for later in the season," McReynolds said. "We definitely picked up the pace and got our minds in the game. We definitely picked up our defensive effort. It was sluggish at the beginning, but we started doubling down and getting to our help-side defense."
McReynolds led the Tigers with 22 points, and Brandon Berhorst had 21. Gabe McKenzie added nine.
Canton trimmed the deficit to six by halftime and tied the score at 43 in the final minute of the third quarter.
Austin Richmiller's 5-footer gave Highland its final lead at 57-56 with less than two minutes to play in regulation. Canton's Tyler Niemann tied the game with a free-throw with 50 seconds to play, and Highland held on for a last shot that never went up.
McKenzie's second one-handed dunk of the game early in overtime put the Tigers up by four, and Canton hit enough free throws down the stretch to seal the victory.