CHARLESTON - The talent-laden Charleston Bluejays escaped with a 54-46 win over the Portageville Bulldogs Friday night. The win was the 'Jays 20th win of the campaign and their 10th in a row.
For Portageville, it was its fifth setback to go with 16 wins.
Both teams played a very physical defensive style from the opening tip and it was obvious that both teams wanted this game very much. The two schools have met for only three years and the Bulldogs had gotten the better of it for the past two.
"I thought we played okay, we needed that type of game because we've had some easy games, and we really had to play tonight," said Charleston coach Danny Farmer.
The two teams came out in the opening quarter and played very evenly. Kewain Gant connected on three buckets to lead the Bluejays and Portageville answered with Aaron Bidewell's five points. Charleston led by an 18-14 score after one period.
Willie Hassell's seven points in the second frame led the Bulldogs' charge, and his 3-pointer with 14 seconds on the clock knotted the score at 29 apiece at intermission.
"I thought Portageville played great and we responded. I've seen them play four times and they definitely played better than I've seen them play," continued coach Farmer.
The defensive pressure in the third period from both teams was so effective that neither team could gain a substantial lead. The Bulldogs did manage a short-lived lead in the period when Edgar Fonda put back a Willie Hassell miss to take a 37-34 lead, but Kewain Gant answered with a steal and a bucket at the buzzer to put the Bluejays ahead 40-39 to set the stage for the final quarter.
"What a physical ballgame it was and our kids fought and fought probably as hard as we could fight and we just didn't execute. There was a stretch there in the third and fourth quarter when we really didn't execute offensively." said Bulldog coach Jim Bidewell. "In the first half and early in the second half we were taking our time, making the good cuts, setting good screens, but late in the game, we started worrying that we might lose this game and stopped executing."
The fourth quarter featured an even tougher Bluejay defense. Portageville's Danny Scherer scored a bucket early in the frame to cut Charleston's lead to 42-41, but a scoring drought began that lasted for five minutes while Charleston slowly but steadily pulled away. Charleston's offense in the quarter featured two slam dunks by Kewain Gant.
Charleston claimed the jayvee contest 50-47.
Next up for Charleston will be the Tigers at Cape Central on Tuesday. Portageville will play a make-up game at Dexter on Monday.