Poplar Bluff used its superior size and strength to shoot down the Bluejays 73-63 on Friday in a SEMO Conference matchup at Charleston.
Charleston coach Danny Farmer was both pleased with his team's performance and gracious in his assessment of the conference kingpin Mules.
"My hat's off to them," said Farmer. "They're a very good team. I'm just pleased with our effort, because they're a lot better than all the other teams in this area. I was happy that we were able to play them tough, hang in and just play hard."
Poplar Bluff's Tyler Hansbrough, bound for Division I power North Carolina, thrilled a large Poplar Bluff fan contingent while agonizing the Charleston faithful.
Poplar Bluff (21-4, 9-0) came out quickly in the opening quarter, leading at one point, 16-4. The first quarter expired with the Mules ahead 22-14.
Seven Mule turnovers helped keep the Bluejays in the game as Poplar Bluff shot a sizzling 90 percent from the field -- 6-of-7 two-pointers, 3-of-3 from behind the arc.
"That's how we've been coming out our last few games," Poplar Bluff coach John David Pattillo said. "We did this last year and we're doing it now. Our problem is we usually hit a lull in the third quarter instead of the second."
The Bluejays (15-9, 5-4), getting scoring contributions from six players in the second quarter, closed the gap to 36-31 at the half.
"We took a lot of quick shots in the second quarter when we didn't have rebound position," said Pattillo, of his team's second-quarter lull. "And they went to a zone and slowed us down a little bit."
Charleston hung around, cutting the Mule lead to three on three different occasions in the third quarter. With the Bluejays trailing 46-43, Poplar Bluff went on a 10-3 run to close the third period up 56-46.
"In this atmosphere, kids get a little crazy and do some things that are a little wild," said Pattillo, "but the good thing is we went in at halftime and had a chance to settle down and come back out and play a little better."
The Mules opened the fourth quarter with six unanswered points to push the margin to a comfortable 16, literally closing the door on the Bluejays.
Charleston outscored the Mules 11-2 in the closing minutes of the final period.
Poplar Bluff's other Hansbrough, Tyler's brother Ben, was another thorn in the Bluejays' side with 20 points, most on dribble-drive penetrations.
"We expect so much out of him," said Pattillo. "He really is controlling our team on the floor. He's being the floor leader that we know he's always been capable of being. He had an awfully good game in a lot of ways."
Four Bluejays tallied double digits led by sophomore Justin Clark with 12. Sophomores Jamarcus Williams and Shawn Sherrell had 11 and 10, respectively.
Charleston's own Division I recruit, Ashton Farmer, also scored 10. Farmer has signed with Arkansas State.
Charleston shot 41 percent from the floor overall, 31 percent (7-of-22) for 3-
pointers, while Poplar Bluff had 62 percent field-goal accuracy, 42.8 (3-of-7) from 3-point range.
Charleston's coach Farmer, with an eye on the ultimate prize, a state title, said he could not be overly concerned with this loss.
"We feel real good about where we're at," he said, with district playoffs on the horizon. "We won't play anybody that talented or anybody with players like the Hansbroughs and their good supporting cast. We won't play kids that big, that strong and, definitely, not anybody going to North Carolina."
Added Farmer, "If we can go out and play our district competition as tough as we played the Mules tonight, we'll be hard to beat."
Charleston hosts Doniphan in its regular-season finale on Tuesday.
In the junior varsity game, Charleston defeated Poplar Bluff 48-39.