CAPE GIRARDEAU - Even with their strong traditions, when Charleston and Twin Rivers meet tonight at Cape Central High School at 8:15, both teams will be inexperienced in the state playoffs.
Charleston captured its first district championship since 1997 while Twin Rivers won its first since 1995.
Neither team was favored to reach the Class 2A Sectional game, but they both accomplished the feat by winning two very strong districts.
The Bluejays defeated top-seeded Notre Dame in overtime 45-43 in District 2, while Twin Rivers came from behind to beat top-seeded and state ranked Portageville in District 1 53-48.
But Twin Rivers head coach Scott Kruse said it the outcome of the district tournaments wasn't much of a surprise.
"I think all the teams would admit in both the districts that you could throw all the teams into a hat," said Kruse. "I don't feel like Charleston was a real two seed and I never felt like we were a real two seed. It didn't surprise me whoever we played. It shouldn't surprise anybody that followed us throughout the year that our kids were able to pull one out against Portageville."
Twin Rivers (24-4) has an impressive resume, with their only losses coming to Poplar Bluff, Portageville and Dexter twice.
Charleston (19-8), on the other hand, has played a much tougher schedule. In addition to the SEMO Conference, in which they went 4-4, the Bluejays have lost to Hazelwood Central, Dexter, Portageville and Kennett in the Sikeston tourney.
The Bluejays' most impressive accomplishment of the year was winning the University High School Christmas Tournament with relative ease.
With the difficulty of Charleston's schedule, head coach Danny Farmer thinks that will have his team more prepared for Twin Rivers.
"I don't think we'll have any nerves because we've been in too many battles," said Farmer. "We've been waiting for this time of the year and we want it to pay off. We really feel our battles and our schedule put us in a position to win the game."
The Bluejays are led by the senior trio of Jordy Mixon (5-11), Lezcano Dean (6-4) and Dontay Clark (5-9).
Mixon scores 17 points per game with five rebounds while Dean averages 14 points, five rebounds and four assists. Clark scores nine points on average.
Junior Kewain Gant (6-5) and freshman Ashton Farmer (6-5) both are long-armed and athletic. Gant scores nine points with 10 rebounds and four blocks per game while Farmer scored nine points with five rebounds per game.
The Bluejays can also go deep into the bench with seniors Jemorrio Betts and Tiyez Whitney and junior Deshaundry Hamilton.
"I think our speed and our pressure defense can be an advantage," said Farmer. "I think our pressure defense will cause some problems and we're getting deeper with Betts getting back. We feel like we can play nine to 10 people and it won't take too much from our team."
The Royals also have good size and depth. Seniors Steve Deken (6-7) and Scott Forest (6-4) take care of things down low.
Deken scored 15 points with nine rebounds and three blocks per game while Forest scored 9.7 points with eight rebounds a contest.
Senior guard Seth McBroom and junior Robby Moore score 12 and 10 points respectively while hitting 45 percent of their 3-point shots.
Senior guard Matt Thurman rounds out the starting unit with eight points per game.
The Royals have good size on the bench with Scott Wilkerson (6-3), Brant Stewart (6-6), Lucas McKinnis (6-3) and Jared Deken (6-1).
"I've got a bunch of guys that aren't the fastest in the world, but we've matched up with some quick teams," said Kruse. "We know we're not on the same level with the teams we're playing athletically. But we've got some other things going for us -- we're really fundamental, we've got some nice size and we've got some nice shooters."
The Royals are also an outstanding free throw shooting team. They hit 17-of-20 from the line in their win against Portageville.
Kruse says he isn't ready to turn in his whistle just yet.
"We want to keep going," he said. "I take them to watch the state tournament no matter what every year, whether we win or lose. They don't want to go just to watch this year -- and they decided that way back in grade school when they watched the '95 team come one game from going."