"We just came in with a good game plan and the kids…I can't compliment them enough about the way they played team basketball," said Kelly coach Cory Johnson. "Anytime you play that well together as a team, good things will happen."
Kelly (6-3) held a slight edge throughout most of the game as the two teams were never separated by more than eight points.
Following a 14-14 first-quarter deadlock, Charleston managed only six points in the second quarter while Kelly vaulted to a 28-20 halftime lead. The Bluejays misfired on 7-of-11 from the foul line in the period.
"We never got in sync," said Charleston coach Danny Farmer. "We didn't shoot it well, missed a lot of open shots and Kelly played hard."
The Hawks led 42-39 as the third quarter expired, then held on for a 51-47 advantage with about three minutes left in the game. Four consecutive free throws and a putback by Charleston sophomore Jamarcus Williams sandwiched around two Kelly free throws by Kendal Deason lifted the Bluejays into a tie at 53 with 2:10 remaining.
After a Clay Mothershead' rebound basket lifted the Hawks to a 55-53 lead, the entire complexion of the game changed.
A major part of Kelly's game plan was to slow down Charleston's 6-foot-6 Division I recruit Ashton Farmer.
Said Johnson, "We doubled him, frustrated him and got him in foul trouble."
Farmer was banished to the sideline with his fifth personal foul with 1:30 left and the Bluejays trailing by only two at 55-53.
Deason converted both foul shots for a 57-53 Kelly lead.
Immediately following Ashton's disqualification, frustration over perceived foul-call inequities triggered a little tirade by coach Farmer which drew a technical foul.
"If you allow them to jump over the back and do all of that and you don't call fouls," said Farmer, "then you handcuff us. They called the game the way Kelly played the game."
Kelly converted 3-of-4 free throws to take a commanding 60-53 lead with 1:20 left, then held on for the victory.
Asked if it was the biggest win of his young career, first-year head coach Johnson said, "It has to be. Anytime you can beat a team like Charleston who's got the reputation that they've gotten over the years and have basically owned this Christmas Tournament for so long, it's big."
Certainly a team win, but the play of guard Kendal Deason, who led with a game-high 21 points, was huge to the Hawk victory.
"The first two games of this tournament he's stepped up to be the leader," said Johnson, "just like I knew he could." Mothershead added 11 and Jordan Felter had 10 for the Hawks.
Charleston (5-7) was topped by Justin Clark's 19 points. Williams and Shawn Sherrell had 12 apiece and Farmer added 10.
Kelly meets Scott City, a 63-47 winner over Advance, today at 7:30 p.m. Scott City owns an early season win over the improved Hawks.
"Hopefully, we can carry the momentum from tonight's win into tomorrow with a lot of confidence and play with the effort we had tonight," added Johnson.
Charleston meets Advance at 4:30 p.m.
Little Class 1 Scott County Central battled the state's fifth-ranked Class 5 team, the Jackson Indians, on nearly even terms for most of three quarters.
Jackson (10-0), with a decided size and depth advantage, turned up the heat in the fourth quarter for a 93-64 win and a semifinal berth at the Southeast Missourian Christmas Tournament on Tuesday.
Jackson poured it on in the second half, particularly the fourth quarter. The Indians scored 58 second-half points, 34 in the fourth period.
Scott Central (7-2) trailed just 59-52 going into the final quarter.
"I think we ran out of gas, got a little tired and lost our legs a little bit," said Scott County coach Delane Beckwith.
"In that second half, I think we became a lot more aggressive and that's where Jack (Puisis) got some looks going to the basket," said Jackson coach Darrin Scott. "We got it into the post some, got some penetration and that opened things up."
Puisis, Jackson's smooth 6-2 guard, led the second-half charge. He tallied 23 of his game-high 30 points after the intermission.
Said Scott, "He's deceptive. When you look at him, he doesn't look as quick as he is, but he can get around people and shoot the basketball."
Scott Central rode the hot-shooting of guard Avis White, who had 14 of his 17 points before the halftime break. Jeremy Johnson shared scoring honors with 17 points, also. Isaac Porter added 13.
"We could have executed the game plan a little better," said Beckwith, "but they're the better team. Our kids played hard and didn't quit and showed a lot of heart. As long as they keep playing hard, I'm happy."
Defending tournament champion Jackson tangles with long-time rival Cape Central today at 6 p.m.
Scott Central meets Bell City at 3 p.m.
After falling to the Hornets two weeks ago, Scott City dominated the second meeting between the two teams to advance to the semifinals.
The Rams (5-3) jumped to an early lead with the help of Mark Johnston, who scored 14 points in the first half while Scott City built a 37-24 lead.
Advance cut the lead to 10 points but would get no closer.
Johnston finished with 16 points, and Mark Dannenmueller led the Rams with 29. Advance was led by Daryl Wade's 16 points.
Central upheld its end of the bargain with a 65-40 rout of No. 5 Bell City on Tuesday at the Show Me Center. Central and Jackson will meet in a rematch of last year's final at 6 p.m. tonight. Bell City (6-3) will face Scott County Central in the fifth-place semifinals.
The Tigers (5-4) climbed over .500 and have won three of their last four. Central made the No. 4 versus No. 5 matchup look like quite a mismatch by jumping out to a 22-7 first-quarter lead.
The Tigers were up by as many as 30 points at the end of the third quarter.
Anthony Hempstead led the Tigers with 14 points. Darnell Wilks added 12 points for the Tigers from the post. Bell City got 11 points from Phillip Gross and 10 from D.D. Gillespie.