CARUTHERSVILLE -- Going into Friday night's game at Joe Parkinson Gymnasium, the Caruthersville Tigers knew their work would be cut out for them with the talented Charleston Bluejays coming to town.
Needless to say, the fur and the feathers really flew as the Tigers pulled off their biggest win of the season by beating the Bluejays 84-76.
After holding a slim 56-54 lead at the end of the third quarter, Caruthersville outscored Charleston 28-22 in the fourth to secure the win. A packed house was on hand to witness the Tigers pick up their first SEMO Conference victory and improve to 6-1 overall. Charleston fell to 4-5.
The ballgame seemed to almost get out of control at times, but the Tigers remained focused and were able to play through some controversial calls and fend off the Bluejays' attempts to overtake the lead late in the contest.
"If you let outside factors affect you, it can take you right out of a ballgame," said Tiger head coach Brian Brandtner. "The calls went both ways, but I thought we did a great job of keeping our composure out there tonight. We didn't let stuff rattle us and I think it was the difference in the game against a high-caliber team like Charleston."
Caruthersville's senior captains provided the bulk of the scoring. Kyle Hubbard led the Tigers with 27 points, Plessie Ellitt tossed in 23, and Paul Sanders added 11 before fouling out in the fourth. Kendrickus Reed also had 11 points.
Charleston got 12 points from senior forward Ashton Farmer before he fouled out, but the Bluejays' youth movement picked up the slack as speedy point guard Shawn Sherrell netted 22 to lead the flock. Fellow sophomores Jamarcus Williams and Justin Clark chipped in 19 and 14.
The game was nip and tuck all the way, beginning with the opening tip. A three-point attempt by Charleston's Clark was off the mark and Hubbard scored the first basket of the game on a driving layup. The Bluejays answered quickly as Sherrell found Farmer in the paint for a two-handed dunk.
With 1:03 left in the opening quarter, Charleston led 12-7 when Farmer was called for a blocking foul that he protested. He was then tagged with a technical for questioning the call and the Tigers hit four free throws to get within a point. A bucket by Hubbard and two free throws by Ellitt put the Tigers on top 14-12 heading into the second.
The second quarter featured a series of runs. Caruthersville went up 21-14, only to witness the Jays retaliate with a run of their own to tie the score 24-24 with 3:50 on the clock. The teams traded baskets for the rest of the quarter.
Towards the end Hubbard scored a left handed finger roll off the glass to give the Tigers a six-point cushion, but Sherrell canned a three-pointer just before the buzzer to set the score at 36-33 at the break.
The second half was full of excitement as well. With two minutes left in the third quarter, a trey by Hubbard and a basket-and-one by Sanders put the Tigers on top 53-44. However, Charleston reeled off a 10-0 run on baskets by Sherrell, Williams and Pettigrew to regain the lead.
The Tigers snatched the lead back right before the buzzer after Hubbard leaned into Pettigrew to draw a foul while shooting from beyond the arc. He connected on all three and the Tigers led 56-54.
The Bluejays dug themselves into a small hole early in the fourth.
After a stickback by Williams, Reed was fouled prior to a timeout. During the timeout, Charleston head coach Danny Farmer was hit with a technical that resulted in six unanswered points for the Tigers.
Reed nailed 3-of-4 free throws but the one he missed was rebounded and stuck back in by Ellitt, who was also fouled. Ellitt completed the three-point play to give the home team a 64-56 lead.
Charleston responded with six straight, including another trey from Sherrell to cut the deficit to two.
Later, with 1:45 to go, Farmer scored his last basket of the game because on the next trip to the defensive end, he bumped Ellitt on the shot to pick up his fifth foul. Ellitt gave the Tigers a 76-72 lead and Williams accounted for the Bluejays' final basket.
Caruthersville's final 8-0 run started with Kenny Hamilton's fastbreak layup and ended with James Jones' uncontested layup in the last 10 seconds.