Jackson Indians held off Kelly 63-61 in a thrilling overtime game to repeat as champion of the Southeast Missourian Christmas Tournament before a near-capacity crowd at the Show Me Center on Thursday night.
"I told our kids to be proud of what happened, not just tonight but the past four nights," said Kelly's Cory Johnson, who guided the Hawks to their first finals appearance since 1997 in his debut season as a head coach. "We've got nothing to hang our heads about."
The unheralded Hawks (7-4), the seventh seed, were clearly the surprise team of the tournament. To reach the final, they upset second-seed Charleston and third-seed Scott City, then gave No. 1 Jackson a huge scare.
"Kelly is as good a basketball team as there is around here," said a relieved Jackson coach Darrin Scott. "I don't think anybody wants to play them right now." Jackson (12-0), an undefeated, state-ranked Class 5 team, narrowly escaped defeat in regulation time.
Scrappy Kelly, a fan favorite, battled back from an 11-point halftime deficit to take its first lead since the game-opening basket at 48-47 on Kent Deason's runner with about 2:30 left.
A key to Kelly's comeback was stellar 27-of-29 free-throw shooting.
With the Hawks' lead at 54-50, Jackson's Tyler Beussink nailed a huge 3-pointer off the right wing to close the gap to 54-53 at the 1:02 mark.
"Tyler's a gamer," said Scott. "He's a competitor and he wanted to take that shot. That was a big time to make one right there."
Two free throws by the Indians' Jack Puisis followed to lift the Indians to a 55-54 lead with 18 seconds left.
Kelly's Kendal Deason hurried the ball upcourt, split a double team and dished off to Michael Glastetter who was fouled as he scored the game-tying field goal with six seconds left. Glastetter's potential game-winning free throw misfired and the contest was sent into a four-minute overtime period.
Deadlocked at 61 with 58 seconds left overtime, Jackson ran the clock down to about six seconds when Adam Ross found 6-foot-8 Ryan Mirly for a layin that proved to be the game-winner.
Kelly's last-second shot fell harmlessly away at the final horn, ending a tremendous tournament run by the Class 3 school. "I was overwhelmed by the way we played and the effort we showed all week," said Johnson. "We came out in game one and shrugged off a sluggish first half with Meadow Heights, then turned it up and kept it up all week long. I'm very proud of what we've accomplished this week."
Johnson, who got his coaching start as an assistant on Scott's Notre Dame staff, added, "I've got the utmost respect for coach Scott and his program. I'm happy for him and the Jackson Indians."
Kendal and Kent Deason represented the Hawks on the all-tournament team. Kent led all scorers in the title game with 24 points, including three 3-pointers, while Kendal added 10.
Clay Mothershead chipped in with 12 points for Kelly. Representing Jackson on the all-tournament team were Puisis, who hit five treys among his team-high 19 points, and 6-9 junior Aaron Redecker, whose defensive presence created havoc for opponents throughout the tourney.
Beussink scored 14 points and Mirly added 13 for the Indians.
Charleston waltzed past lethargic Scott County Central to claim the fifth-place trophy.
"I'm proud that we were the last Class 1 team standing and playing for a trophy in the winners bracket," said Scott Central coach Delane Beckwith, "but I'm disappointed with our effort tonight. We just didn't come out with a lot of intensity or heart."
Charleston (7-6), on the other hand, came out with energy. Led by Ashton Farmer's 13 first-half points, the Bluejays rolled to a 22-11 first-quarter lead then extended it to 42-22 at the half.
Farmer displayed his versatility, not only scoring, but leading the Bluejays' fastbreak and defensive effort. He finished with a team-high 15 points.
"He does so many things for us," said Charleston coach Danny Farmer. "He doesn't have to just score; he can get the ball to other guys, also."
Scott Central (8-3) was led by Jeremy Johnson with 14 points and Isaac Porter with 10.
Scott Central's Avis White made the all-tournament team.
Sophomore point guard Shawn Sherrell, Charleston's lone all-tournament selection, scored 10 points. Justin Clark added 11 and reserve Moses Gater had nine.
Charleston coach Farmer, looking for a silver lining in a rather lackluster start for his Bluejays, may have found it.
He said, "I can feel that sense of urgency with this team now. We weren't getting that early on. Now they know that we're going to have to pick it up."