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Free throw shooting lifts 'Jays into finals

Sunday, March 19, 2006

(Photo)
Jamarcus Williams drives around Mount Vernon's Josh Kleine.
COLUMBIA -- The Charleston Bluejays raced out to a quick lead and withstood a late rally to defeat Mount Vernon, 65-60 to advance to Saturday's Class 3 state championship game.

Charleston played Cardinal Ritter for the championship but results were not available at press time. Complete game results will be in Monday's edition.

Cardinal Ritter, ranked No. 1 in Class 3, won a thriller 51-48 over No. 2-

ranked Cameron when DeAndre Gilmore hit a 28-foot shot at the buzzer.

"This is our fourth time coming up here -- every year we just want to get back and try to do it again. We really want it this year. We've been focused all year and we've been looking forward to this moment. We're thrilled to be in the finals."

Charleston led by as much as 16 points only to see Mount Vernon cut the lead to one point on two different occasions in the fourth quarter.

"I could tell Mount Vernon wasn't going to lay down," said Charleston coach Danny Farmer. "They gave us all we wanted. We just made our free throws at the right time."

The Bluejays (24-7) were able to overcome the surging ninth-ranked Mountaineers (24-5) by sinking seven consecutive free throws in the final 1:

37 of the game.

Mount Vernon, on the other hand, was just 1-for-5 from the line in the final two minutes, including a missed 1-and-1. They were just 4-13 from the line in the game.

Mount Vernon's Ethan Trokey canned a 3-pointer with 26 seconds left to cut the Charleston lead to 61-60.

Charleston junior Shawn Sherrell made two free throws to extend the lead to 63-60 with 23 seconds left.

Mount Vernon had a chance to tie the game, but a Tomas Brock 3-point attempt was off the mark and the ball went out of bounds off the Mountaineers with 9.6 seconds left.

Sherrell came through with two more clutch free throws to ice the victory.

After trailing 3-2 in the early going, Charleston heated up from beyond the 3-point arc as they buried four 3-pointers in the opening period.

Charleston built a double-digit lead when senior Tavis Hamilton hit a 3-

pointer to push the Bluejay lead to 23-12. Hamilton was 3-3 from 3-point range in the first quarter and hit 4-4 in the game.

"I saw the holes in the zone so when I had the shot I took it," said Hamilton. "It just so happened that I made them tonight."

Charleston, which has won its last five games by at least 17 points, appeared to be well on its way to rolling to another blowout victory as they opened up a 28-12 lead early in the second quarter.

But Mount Vernon clawed its way back into single-digits as Charleston's shooting went cold and the Mountaineers began heating up from the field.

They cut the lead to 33-24 by halftime.

"We survived that first half when they came out and shot the ball extremely well, which we knew they were capable of doing,"said Mount Vernon coach Skip Brock.

Charleston out-rebounded the Mountaineers 21-10 in the first half, including eight offensive boards.

"We wanted to keep them off the boards -- we practiced on that," said Farmer. "Going into the playoffs we wanted to be a better offensive rebounding team. We kind of picked that up from Sikeston."

Brock said his team's seldom-used zone defense may have played a part in the rebounding problems, but also admitted it may not have mattered.

"With a team like that, I'm not sure wouldn't have trouble rebounding in any defense," said Brock. "One of their best attributes is they go to the glass so hard and they're so athletic."

Charleston built a 40-28 lead in the third quarter, but Mount Vernon rattled off an 8-0 run to close the gap to 40-36.

Charleston regrouped for a 46-38 lead heading into the fourth quarter.

With their shooting touch still cold, the Bluejays went to a delay game early in the fourth quarter.

"We were cold and we wanted to slow the ball down and get a high percentage shot," said Farmer. "Get it inside and try to draw some fouls. We believe in our free throw shooting. We have some excellent shooters under pressure."

But instead of drawing fouls, Charleston began to take ill-advised shots in addition to five turnovers in the final frame.

Mount Vernon took advantage.

The Mountaineers slapped on a full-court press that caused some problems for the Bluejays.

"We weren't ready for it," said Farmer of the press. "We didn't expect them to press us. I give them credit. They had a very good gameplan. They were better than I thought they would be. They had me puzzled. I couldn't figure them out because of the scores. We didn't see them on tape. We had scouting reports and they had scores like 19-17."

The Mountaineers' Tomas Brock caught fire, sinking 11 of his game-high 32 points in the fourth quarter. His shot with 4:12 let cut the lead to 51-50. Later in the quarter, Brock dished off a pass to Trokey to cut the lead to one once again.

"I thought in the second half that was the best 16 minutes of basketball we've played the entire season," said Brock.

But the Bluejays' free throw shooting helped keep Mount Vernon at bay.

Sherrell and Hamilton each had 17 points for the Bluejays. Jamarcus Williams added 14 points and 10 rebounds for Charleston.

Josh Kleine, a 6-7 center, scored 14 points with eight rebounds for the Mountaineers.