(Photo by Kyle Carter, Staff)
Monday night the Bluejays blew off Notre Dame, the number two seed, in the championship game as Charleston went back-to-back in the seMissourian Christmas Tournament by a score of 66-52.
Junior Marcus Biles scored 17 points to lead Charleston in the championship matchup.
"We were expected to win here again this year and simply put, that's what we did," said Charleston head coach Danny Farmer. "Notre Dame is a good team and they played hard all night, but tonight, we really played as a team. We did everything well and played well together."
One of Charleston's all-stars was nearly a no-show as sophomore Ashton Farmer scored six points, while going 2-for-5 from the charity stripe. Farmer is averaging over double that for the tournament in the other three games.
"I know I didn't play a good game tonight," said Ashton Farmer, "but I am glad that my teammates came in and picked me up. All the starters and the bench players picked up their play for me tonight and it really made me realize tonight that we are a family."
"The defenses throughout this tournament have played me very well and it has been very frustrating at times, but that's just something that I'm going to have to work on in the future."
In the title game, the Bluejays pulled away in the first quarter.
Charleston went up 12-4 early in the first on triples from Deshaundray Hamilton and Marcus Biles. After a layup from Hamilton, the Bluejays were up 14-6 and ran on to a 28-10 lead on another triple from Biles.
Period number three saw Biles, Joshua Strayhorn, Kewain Gant and Dramel Jones all hit two buckets each in the third period as they took a 57-33 lead.
The Bluejays' third string only scored nine points in the final period, five of which came from A.H. Marshall, but it didn't matter as Charleston sailed to the championship.
"We are much more together this year," said Gant. "Last year we really never did get together as a team, but this year it isn't really about one player. We are all about making each other better."
This is the 15th time in 58 years that Charleston has won the tournament. Last year the Bluejays ran away with the trophy as well, beating Jackson 54-44.
If Charleston continues their success this season, even with losing four seniors next season, they could be an odds on favorite for a three-peat.
"We now have one main goal in mind for the rest of the season," said Coach Farmer. "We want to go to the Final Four this year.
The Cubs brought the war between Bell City and Oran to one game now in the coach David Heeb era as the Eagles hold a 4-3 lead in the series.
Bell City did not crush the Eagles, but they did take third place in the tournament as junior Dominitrix Johnson scored 19 points and was voted to the all-tournament team Monday.
Johnson's 19 was followed by 17 points from Eric Henry and 11 from both Ben Duncan and A.J. Henry.
"I thought both teams approached the game in the first quarter like any other game," said Heeb. "As the game went on you began to see a lot more emotion out of both sides and it really did turn into a grudge match."
Oran opened the game with a two point lead and held it until Bell City went on a 9-0 run, which included six points from Johnson, to give the Cubs their first lead of the game at 20-11.
The lead, however, would not last as the Eagles began a 10 point run of their own which was capped by a jumper from Garrett Roslen. Roslen's bucket, with 4:17 left in the half, gave Oran their last lead of the game at 21-20.
A trey from Eric Henry and a jumper from Ben Duncan quickly put BCHS back up top at 25-21.
Bell City continued to extend the lead and held an eight point lead on a triple from Henry with 4:41 left in the third, but Oran once again cut the lead to two at 43-41 on a three from Ryan Bouge to end the third quarter.
Free throws kept the Cubs in the fourth quarter as Bell City hit over half of their 21 freebies in the final period.
"We rebounded really well in the second half," said Heeb. "We've talked a lot about being tough in practice and I think we have toughened up a lot over the course of this tournament."
Coach Heeb also talked some about the play of sophomore A.J. Henry, the cousin of Bell City superstar Eric Henry, "We had three different starting lineups before we left the gym today, but A.J. did a great job for us. I think he showed us tonight what he can do. Sometimes he's going to fade into the background, but some nights, like tonight, he is really going to stand out."
The Tigers and Jackson simply swapped blows for the fifth place title, but the Indians could never overcome a 24-point second quarter from Cape Central.
Junior Ryan Delph hit two threes and nailed two free throws to lead Cape Central in the drive. Delph finished with 12 points, including three treys.
Jackson senior Tyler Boyd led all scorers with 15 points including one trey. Boyd was perfect from the line on the night as he went 6-6 and hit three jumpers.
Tyler McNeely was the other major contributor for the Indians as he hit a trey and a deuce in the first quarter and two baskets in the final period to end with 13.
In possibly the sickest performance of the entire tournament, Advance's Hornets ran out of fumes in the final period and allowed Woodland to post 23 in the fourth quarter to take ninth place.
"In all my years of coaching I've never seen anything like it," said Advance head coach Jim Hall. "I had one kid not dress out, I had three with a temperature of at least 103 and all of the rest were sick. We had kids throwing up before the game, at halftime and even during the game."
Senior guard Jared Ritter, who has been one of the sickest through out the entire tournament, finished with 26 points, including six threes on the night. Ritter averaged 20 points while his team went 2-2 in the tournament.
Woodland sophomore Cody McCraw finished with top scoring honors for the Cardinals as he dropped in 23 points, including one three.
"We knew coming in this was going to be a rough tournament," said Hall. "The last day of practice before this tournament began we had two big trash cans in the middle of the court and toilet paper rolls all over the sides for the guys to use. I've never seen anything like it."
In the game, Advance played tough as they held a five point lead at 53-48 going into the final period. Woodland though, would turn up their offense a notch and Advance simply couldn't keep up.
The Cardinals hit a trey and then Travis Benfield put a five point combination together to give Woodland a 64-56 lead.
Woodland would never relinquish the lead again as they coasted to an eight point victory.