A year ago Central erased an eight-point deficit in the game's final 1:38 and won a shocker at the buzzer, but this time East took charge down the stretch.
The Cougars (4-5, 0-1) led this early-season rematch at halftime by a 32-27 count, but the second half was pretty much all Sullivan East (5-3, 1-0).
"Central has a good team and they played awfully well the first half," said John Dyer, in his 32nd year as head coach of the Patriots. "Our league ... whew ... our league is just going to be fantastic.
"I thought we came out in the second half and met the challenge. Eric Hare is a senior and he was the spark plug for us, getting rebounds and making assist passes and hitting a huge 3-pointer for us in the second half."
The Patriots made 11 shots from beyond the arc, eight in the second half. Dylan Bartley nailed six all told himself and Mason Montgomery buried four.
Shooting the triple is just the way East rolls.
"We, yes," Dyer said. "But we've got to shoot the right ones, and we did that.
"Montgomery hit all four of his in the second half and Bartley hit three of his. That really helped us get the upper hand a little bit."
Bartley, six of six at the foul line, finished with a game-high 24 points. Montgomery netted 16 points and teammate Clayton Ivester kicked in 13.
Central was led by the 16-point outing of Ty Barb. Joltin Harrison had 14 points for Derek McGhee's Cougars, while Bryson Crabtree contributed a dozen.
Harrison's third 3 of the first half, a 20-footer at the buzzer, provided Central with its five-point lead at intermission, but the Cougars could not maintain.
"We decided at halftime that Bartley would guard No.1 (Harrison) and he did a really good job on him," Dyer said. "Dylan is a complete player. He's more than just a 3-point shooter — he can do everything."
CENTRAL GIRLS REMAIN PERFECT
BLUFF CITY— Defending Three Rivers girls champion Sullivan Central opened its 2019-20 league schedule Tuesday night at the Dyer Dome with a 54-38 victory over homestanding Sullivan East.
The unbeaten Cougars won for the seventh time in seven outings, methodically inching away from East for three periods before putting the Patriots (4-4, 0-1) away with a convincing fourth-quarter effort.
Up 29-26 at intermission and 38-30 after three quarters, Central looked to Abbey Crawford to put away the Patriots over the final eight minutes.
A 6-foot-2 senior pivot who'll play next season at Wofford College, Crawford notched a game-high 22 points. She scored on three straight trips down the floor — twice on jumpers — to open the last period and pretty much seal the deal.
Macy McClellan scored 10 points and Avery Leming nailed three 3s to provide Crawford with excellent support.
"We came out kind of flat in the first half and East outplayed us," said third-year Central coach Kristi Walling. "We had told the girls that East was capable, but I guess it took us until halftime before we realized it.
"In the second half we were able to speed up the tempo by playing better defense. We tell them 'Get your defense going and the offense will come,' and that's what happened out there at the start of the fourth quarter."
East was led in scoring by Emma Aubrey, who hit four 3s and tossed in 12 points. Haley Grubb contributed 11 for the Patriots.