Top-ranked Cardinal Ritter rallied to defeat Lincoln Prep Academy 58-54 in the other semifinal game. Charleston (27-4) played Lincoln Prep in the third place game Saturday. Results from that game will be in Monday's paper.
"We're very disappointed," said Charleston head coach Danny Farmer. "Ash Grove played a very good game and we really weren't at our best."
Ash Grove (28-4), which is ranked No. 3 in the state, was on fire from beyond the arc in the game, canning 10-of-20 from downtown.
Meanwhile, Charleston was ice cold in the game, making just 1-of-15 from 3-point range.
"We tend to put up that many 3s in a big game because they feel the flow of the game," said Ash Grove head coach Rick Creed. "I've watched these guys play, when I know they get squared up and they know where their spot is, they've got the green light. I think any coach would take 10-for-20 from 3s. It's probably the difference in the game."
The fundamentally sound Pirate team also kept the Bluejays off the boards for the most part, limiting them to one shot on numerous occasions.
"We didn't shoot the ball well and we didn't play defense well either," said Farmer. "All year we never had a game where we didn't do both at the same time. But we didn't do either today."
The Pirates got a big game out of star guard Jeremy Nicholson, who led all scorers with 24 points. He also had 10 rebounds and five assists before fouling out late in the fourth quarter.
"Nicholson is a very good player," said Farmer. "He was very impressive. He rebounds well, handles the ball well, shoots the ball well. And he wanted it. Ash Grove wanted the game a lot more. I thought we got out-hustled."
But the most productive Pirate came from an unexpected source in 6-foot-1, 200-pound Jerod Floyd. The senior had 22 points with 14 rebounds and did the bulk of the ball-handling against the Bluejays' pressure defense.
The Pirates were able to seal the game in the fourth quarter with some solid free throw shooting, going 23-of-31 in the game.
Charleston never got closer than three points in the fourth quarter. The emotionally charged Bluejays jumped out to a 12-6 lead when Ashton Farmer finished off a fastbreak with a one-handed jam while being fouled by Nicholson.
"That was a heck of a dunk, I mean, we've done that to people too," said Creed. "I admire Jeremy for going up there and contesting him. I think you saw some excellent athleticism right there. I think that got us up because we knew right then that the gloves were off."
Ash Grove got back into the game with an effective full-court press that forced several Bluejay turnovers.
The Pirates tied the game at 12-12 when Floyd converted a 4-point play with 3:38 left in the first quarter. Farmer added another dunk and two free throws to build a 16-12 lead but the Pirates closed the quarter with a 7-2 run, eventually taking a 19-18 lead on Shane Nicholson's steal and layup.
"We were too emotional," said Farmer. "We were too emotional at the beginning of the game when you have three other quarters to play."
The Bluejays held a brief 22-21 lead on a Deshaundray Hamilton basket early in the second quarter. But the Pirates went on a 9-0 run to take a 29-22 lead capped by a Cory Adamson 3-pointer with 4:44 left in the half.
Charleston was able to cut the lead to 34-30 on a Marcus Biles basket, but the Pirates once again closed the quarter strong with an 8-2 run, highlighted by Floyd's banked-in 3-pointer at the halftime buzzer to give Ash Grove a 42-32 lead.
"That was a little bit of luck," admitted Floyd. "I faked the shot and I thought he might jump and lean into me a little bit, but he got out of the way. I just kind of threw it up and luckily it went in."
The Bluejays got back in the game in the third quarter behind Biles' 10 points. Biles' 3-pointer with 27 seconds left in the quarter cut the lead to 51-50, but Jeremy Nicholson scored a running floater at the third quarter horn to extend the lead back to 53-50.
After Nicholson buried two free throws to start the fourth quarter, Biles answered with a basket to cut the lead to 55-52. The Bluejays never got closer the rest of the way.
Adamson, a 6-4 senior, had 17 points and seven rebounds. He kept the Bluejays at bay with two back-breaking 3-pointers in the fourth quarter. Biles led Charleston with 21 points, 19 of which came in the second half. He also had four rebounds and six steals.
Kewain Gant scored 12 of his 18 points in the first half. He also had 12 rebounds, five assists and four blocked shots.
Farmer added 12 points and eight rebounds before fouling out. Biles, Gant and Farmer all battled foul problems throughout much of the game.
"(Ash Grove) had too much space and too much room and we didn't put enough pressure on," said Farmer. "But every time we did put the pressure on they did a good job of falling. I think that kind of discouraged the kids to play aggressively. We play aggressive in our area. Anything is not a foul, any touch or whatever. And we didn't adjust to this game."
The Bluejays committed 23 fouls in the game and they turned the ball over 16 times. Charleston didn't help its cause as they were just 6-of-12 from the free throw line.
"We're not a very good free throw shooting team," said Farmer. "We haven't been the whole year. As a matter of fact that's our weakness. Sooner or later your Achilles' heel will catch up."