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Saturday, Oct. 25, 2014

Charleston finishes third in Class 3

Monday, March 24, 2003

COLUMBIA -- Every year in the state of Missouri, only two high school teams in each classification get to end their season with a victory.

With Saturday's 57-54 win against Lincoln Prep Academy in the third place game at the Class 3 Final Four at the Hearnes Center, Charleston became one of the two.

In the championship game Saturday night, top-ranked Cardinal Ritter capped an undefeated season with a 64-53 victory against No. 3 Ash Grove.

Although it wasn't a championship trophy the Bluejays held at the end of the game, third place wasn't too shabby.

"We'll take it," said Charleston head coach Danny Farmer. "We came up here to win it but we fell short. We ran into a team (Friday) that was shooting the ball extremely well. I thought our total overall effort up here was outstanding. We'll take third in the state. There's a bunch of teams that want to be here."

Charleston (28-4) was making it's first Showdown appearance since 1996 when they won the state title.

It was the Bluejays' 14th appearance in school history. With nine state championships, two runnerup and two fourth place finishes, Saturday's third place trophy is Charleston's first.

"We got our feet wet up here and hopefully this will be a learning experience," said Farmer. "We have a bunch of younger kids coming back next year. Hopefully it'll be a building block for the following year."

Perhaps still disappointed from Friday's shocking semifinal loss to Ash Grove, Charleston never could put away the upstart Lincoln Tigers.

Lincoln Prep (17-10) gave the Bluejays all they wanted with some hot outside shooting and control of the boards.

The Tigers made 11-of-32 from 3-point range, many of which were attempted late in an effort to make a comeback.

They also out-rebounded the Bluejays 35-to-28, including 19 on the offensive end.

Not until the Bluejays held a 57-52 lead with 11 seconds left did Farmer feel victory was in hand.

It was an unlikely run by the Tigers, who were seeded fifth in their own district, only to upset one team after another despite starting two freshmen and two juniors.

The Tigers even pushed Cardinal Ritter to the brink of defeat in the semifinals before eventually falling 58-54.

It was then that Farmer knew his team would have a battle in the third place game.

"They gave everybody a run for their money," said Farmer. "They gave Ritter a game (Friday) night and they gave us a game today. The teams up here don't quit and they just play, play, play. If you come up here and you think you're going to have a breeze then you can hang it up."

Charleston appeared capable of running Lincoln Prep right out of Columbia during the first quarter.

The Bluejays raced out to a 10-0 lead and didn't allow a basket until 2:15 remained when Darius Uche sank a 3-pointer.

Charleston led by as much as 11 but Lincoln's Randy Valerio made a 3-pointer at the buzzer to cut the lead to 14-6 at the end of one.

The Bluejays led by as much as 22-9 in the second quarter but Valerio made three from downtown in the quarter and Robert Nutt added one of his own to cut the Charleston lead to 29-24 by halftime.

The Tigers continued the hot shooting, making four more 3-pointers in the third quarter, to tie the score for the first time with 57 seconds left in the period.

Charleston eventually settled for a 45-43 lead heading into the fourth quarter.

"We ran into another team that shoots the ball extremely well," said Farmer. "They're quick and they shoot the ball well. That's why they're here."

The Tigers were able to tie the score once again on a Ronald Chisolm 3-pointer with 5:50 left in the game but they never could take the lead.

A basket by Marcus Biles and an alley-oop dunk by Kewain Gant on a fast-break opened up a four-point lead for the Bluejays.

Lincoln's Brandon Coleman answered with an inside basket on the other end, but a basket by Biles and a steal and layup by Trentez Lane gave the Bluejays a 56-50 lead with 1:47 left in the game.

The Tigers never got closer than the final margin.

"Charleston's an excellent team -- they've got a good winning tradition there," said Lincoln Prep head coach Andy Jackson. "My kids are playing together for the first time. I've got two kids that were 8th graders last year. We've been underdogs all year. We were seeded fifth in our district, so this is a great accomplishment for my kids."

Lincoln was led by Valerio's 16 points. Nutt added nine points, eight rebounds and four assists.

Coleman had eight points, nine rebounds and three blocked shots.

"This is a valuable experience for them and good for the program," said Jackson. "My kids learned a lot from being here. I was really proud of the kids."

Charleston got a game-high 17 points out of senior Deshaundray Hamilton. He also had four assists.

Gant, a 6-foot-8 senior, had 13 points, eight rebounds and four blocked shots.

"He took his game to another level his senior year," said Farmer. "I think he should be an all-stater. He improved tremendously and he's a catalyst for us being here."

Charleston's third senior, Dadrian Jones, played sparingly but added one point and one rebound.

"Those are some real tough ones to lose, you're talking about three of our top seven," said Farmer. "We're hoping that we've got some guys that can step in and play next year."

Farmer, a 6-6 sophomore, added 12 points and six rebounds for the Bluejays.

Lane, a 5-11 junior, had eight points and nine rebounds.

The Bluejays' 28 wins is the most since 1997 and it marks the most successful season under Farmer, who's been at the helm since 1998.

"This was my best year here by far," said Farmer. "It's going to be hard for us to duplicate that. But that's the way we see it. We try to get better and better from year to year."