CHARLESTON -- Coming off a two-week layoff, the Charleston Bluejays showed little signs of rust in a 69-49 home conference win over the Kennett Indians on Friday.
Charleston (14-4) improved to 5-1 in the SEMO Conference while Kennett (6
-10) remained winless in the conference at 0-3.
Following a first-quarter tie at 17, the Bluejays turned it up in the second period, forcing eight Kennett turnovers. Many were converted to points as Charleston went on an 8-0 run to close the quarter for a 37-26 halftime lead.
"We came out and played hard in the second quarter, took the lead and kept it," said Charleston coach Danny Farmer. "We were able to put a lot of pressure, with Tavis (Hamilton) and Antonio (Riggens), on their point guard (Corderro Taylor) and wore him down and got some turnovers."
The senior Hamilton and Riggens, a freshman, along with junior Shawn Sherrell, were largely responsible for creating 24 Kennett turnovers.
Juniors Jamarcus Williams and Justin Clark combined for 23 points to pace the Bluejays' first-half scoring production.
Clark scored 11 of his game-high 21 points and Williams netted 12 of his runner-up 16. Williams also finished with a team-high nine rebounds.
The floor game, particularly the penetration and passing, of point guard Sherrell provided the spark the Bluejays have been missing recently.
Sherrell, appearing completely healthy following seven weeks of limited play while rehabbing a painful deep thigh bruise, dished for eight assists and scored 14 points off an assortment of mid-range jumpers and runners in the lane.
The Bluejays had a team total of 18 assists.
Farmer said, "We don't have any problem passing it around and getting the ball to where it needs to go."
The game also marked the most extensive play for senior forward Josh Thompson since a broken fibula suffered in early December.
Thompson, the consummate role player, also looked like his old self -- taking charges, competing for loose balls and hitting the boards.
"Shawn and Josh both looked good," said Farmer. "We need them back."
Charleston extended its lead to 16 at 47-31 late in the third quarter, but Kennett, taking advantage of the absence of Williams and Clark, both out for a brief rest, finished the quarter on an 8-2 run to narrow the gap to 49-39.
Clark, following Sherrell's jumper from the right corner, ignited the 'Jays with 10 consecutive points, including two baskets from beyond the arc, to reestablish the lead at 61-41, the winning margin.
Taylor led the Indians' scoring with 18 points and Jared Hughes added 15.
In the junior varsity game, Charleston defeated Kennett 51-29. Donald Dixon led the 'Jays with 18 points.
Charleston, ranked ninth in the Missouri Sportswriters and Sportscasters Association Class 3 state poll, enters the stretch run of the regular season with a formidable lineup of opponents ahead, among them Jackson, Poplar Bluff and Doniphan.
"That's a good thing," said Farmer. "That's what we need. We need to be tested before district on our quest to try to go to state again."
Charleston visited Malden on Saturday at 3 p.m., and hosts Jackson on Tuesday at 6 p.m.