Charleston, the No. 1 ranked team in Class 3, opened up a 10-point first quarter lead and was never seriously threatened as they held off Sikeston 68-56 in front of a jam-packed Sikeston Field House crowd.
"We probably handled the atmosphere as well as we've ever handled it," said Charleston head coach Danny Farmer. "We normally go berserk. But we were calm. Both teams were calm. We didn't let the crowd get into it that much in this game."
Fans itching for some highlight reel plays didn't get their money's worth.
There were no slam dunks or fantastic displays of athleticism that are normally present when Sikeston and Charleston meet.
Just a lot of 3-pointers.
Both teams had season-highs in 3-pointers made on the night. Sikeston hit 8-of-27 attempts while Charleston knocked down six 3-pointers.
Forcing Charleston to shoot from the outside was part of the strategy according to Sikeston head coach Gregg Holifield, who kept his team in a tight zone for much of the night.
"We knew they were so darn tough inside that we had to make them shoot from the perimeter," said Holifield. "They just so happened to knock some 3s down. They hit six 3s and they shot the ball well. If they do that, they're very difficult to beat."
On top of the made 3-pointers, the Bluejays dominated the offensive boards and were able to get many second-chance points, which, obviously, not part of the plan.
"That was a big difference, probably the biggest difference. We didn't keep them off the boards," said Holifield. "They're so active on the offensive boards, more active than any team we play every year."
Although the Bluejays led throughout, the Bulldogs never would go away as they had the lead under 10 points on several occasions in the second half.
Junior guard Marcus McCaster helped keep the Bulldogs close by scoring 12 of his game-high 21 points in the third quarter.
McCaster, who hit 4-of-10 from downtown, had one of his best offensive nights of the year.
The Bulldogs also handled Charleston's pressure defense fairly well as they turned the ball over only eight times on the night.
"I've seen our pressure do some things to teams, but they didn't turn it over as much as I expected," said Farmer. "I thought they would've thrown it away a lot more. I thought they handled our pressure well."
Charleston grabbed the early lead in the game. A 12-2 run by the Bluejays gave them an 18-10 lead after one quarter.
The Bulldogs got to within 18-15 after a McCaster 3-pointer, but the Bluejays extended the lead back to double figures, leading 30-20 at the half.
"In the first half, we missed shots we normally knock down," said Holifield. "But again, Charleston doesn't give you many open looks.
The Bluejays led by as much as 15 in the third quarter but the Bulldogs responded, keyed by McCaster's hot shooting. McCaster made three consecutive 3-pointers in the third quarter to get the lead down to 43-35 with 2:25 left.
But as quick as Sikeston had the lead to single digits, Charleston senior Trentez Lane scored the Bluejays' last seven points of the quarter to push the lead back to 50-38.
"We got down 10 and kept battling, but every time we'd get it to six or seven they'd just come up and make a play," said Holifield. "That's what good teams do. Lane was the difference-maker."
Lane finished with a team-high 17 points, including three 3-pointers.
"Lane really took charge and had a super game," said Farmer. "We always have one guy to come up and play a very good game and Trentez did that tonight."
Charleston led by as much as 56-38 early in the fourth quarter but the Bulldogs continued to relentlessly fire up 3-pointers.
They got as close as 11 down the stretch but couldn't get the game into single digits.
"They were making some of them, but we would come back down and make a bucket," said Farmer. "As long as we were exchanging buckets I felt alright."
Charleston has now defeated Sikeston nine straight times dating back to the 1999-2000 season.
"We played hard, but they are just a really good team," said Holifield. "They've got a lot of weapons and they play well as a team. In my opinion, that's possibly the state champs right there."
Bluejay senior Joshua Strayhorn had 14 points. Junior Ashton Farmer chipped in with 13 points and freshman Jamarcus Williams added eight points.
Senior Marcus Biles, although only scoring six points, made his presence felt as he had numerous assists and wreaked havoc on the Bulldog ball-handlers on defense.
"Biles and Ashton, they're just as good as any players in the state in my opinion," said Holifield. "Ashton stepped up and hit some big shots, under some pressure too. He just turned around and knocked them down. Biles, he may be the best point guard in the state of Missouri."
Bulldog sophomore Trey Spence chipped in with 11 points and five rebounds. Senior Freddie Wiggins had eight points with nine rebounds.
Freshman Joe Lincoln had eight points and three assists. Kash Bratcher, a sophomore, hit two NBA-range 3-pointers in the fourth quarter during the Bulldogs' comeback attempt.
"I'll say one thing, Sikeston is a much improved team from the first time we played them," said Farmer. "I think those young guys have helped them a lot and they're playing well. I think they are a much better team now."
Sikeston (3-7, 1-1 SEMO Conference) won't play again until the Superman Classic on Jan. 19. They will open the first round against host school Massac County.
Charleston (13-1, 2-0 SEMO) will play at SEMO Conference foe New Madrid County Central on Tuesday at 6 p.m.
"It was a great experience for our kids," said Holifield. "Our fans were outstanding -- both sets of fans were great. The kids love to play in that atmosphere. It helps you get prepared for the district tournament."
The Sikeston JV team fell to 8-2 on the season with a 65-48 loss to Charleston.
The win by the Bluejay JV team avenges a 67-60 defeat to Sikeston back in the Notre Dame JV Tournament.
Sikeston led 13-6 after one quarter and led 15-6 early in the second quarter, but the Bluejays took control from there.
Charleston led 25-24 at the half and 44-36 heading into the fourth quarter.
Sikeston was led by freshman Julian Beard's 15 points, four rebounds and four assists.
Joel Nabors added 13 points and 10 rebounds. Jeremy Conley had six points and 10 rebounds.
Sikeston turned the ball over 27 times in the game.
Charleston was led by freshman Shawn Sherrell with 20 points. Freshman Justin Clark added 14 points.