Notre Dame, backing up its semifinal victory as the fifth seed over the top-
seeded Bluejays en route to the tournament championship, defeated Charleston again 65-60 in a SEMO Conference matchup on Tuesday at Notre Dame Regional High School.
Charleston (10-4, 2-1) looked intent on avenging that earlier loss with a strong first-quarter performance.
With senior guard Tavis Hamilton leading the way with all 12 of his points and three assists, the hot-shooting Bluejays romped to a 23-10 lead before settling for a 25-18 first-quarter lead.
Charleston also got a lift with the return of injured guard Shawn Sherrell.
"Sherrell looked a lot better," said Charleston coach Danny Farmer, of his starting junior point guard, who has seen limited playing time recently with a deep thigh bruise. "He was the difference in the game."
Notre Dame (12-1, 3-1), behind Alex Ressel's eight second-quarter points, went on a 9-0 run to tie at 27 and trailed at halftime by only one at 35-34.
"They gave us their best shot and we weathered it," said Notre Dame coach Paul Hale. "When we got it back to one point at halftime, I told the guys we had a chance. I didn't think they could continue to play that good for two more quarters."
Notre Dame rode its patented full-court press to its initial lead at 40-38, eventually extending the advantage to 54-45 as the third quarter expired.
"We picked up the intensity--that's what we live and die on," said Hale. "We made some key steals and got a few breakaways for easy baskets."
Meanwhile, the Bluejays' shooting cooled from the field as they were outscored 20-10 in the period.
"A lot of that (cold shooting) is their pressure," said Farmer. "I can't take anything away from Notre Dame. They put more pressure on us than any other team. We cooled down, but I was happy that we matched their intensity. That was an improvement."
Added Farmer, "If we had hit a few shots here and there in that third quarter, it probably could have been a different story."
Charleston battled back to pull within two at 58-56 at 3:35 of the fourth quarter, but Notre Dame responded with two consecutive baskets to extend the lead to 62-56.
Justin Clark's putback and Shawn Sherrell's jumper in the lane narrowed the gap to 62-60 with about a minute left.
As Notre Dame ran time off the clock, Charleston gained possession on an alternate-possession jump ball. Clark's baseline runner to tie rimmed out with 14.4 to go as Notre Dame's Ryan Willen grabbed the critical rebound.
Said Farmer, "It's always going to come down to making that key shot, but we're learning. We need these types of games. It'll only make us better."
With fouls to give, the Bluejays fouled twice quickly. The first foul call on a trap at midcourt, with eight seconds remaining, appeared to result in a steal by Jamarcus Williams. Williams, along with the Charleston faithful, protested the call to no avail, of course.
Forced to foul a third time with the bonus in effect, Notre Dame's Frankie Ellis went to the line with 5.5 seconds to go. Ellis sank the front end of a one-
and-one to open a three-point advantage at 63-60.
He missed the bonus but Notre Dame's Ressel kept the possession alive, going up against a trio of Charleston players and tipping the rebound to a teammate with 2.5 seconds left.
Ressel's play typified the Notre Dame effort. While not making a high percentage of their shots, the Bulldogs were able to make plays.
"The shots didn't fall tonight like they have been but if you can do that and win against a very fine team, I think we may have something special going on here," said Hale.
Xavier Delph's two foul shots sealed the win.
Ressel led the Bulldogs with 19 points, while Ellis and Delph added 14 and 13, respectively.
Clark scored a team-high 19 points and Williams had 18 for the Bluejays.
Charleston's junior varsity lost 58-44. Brian Parham (15), Paul Johnson (12) and Donald Dixon (10) paced the Bluejay offense.
Next up for Charleston is an away game against Sikeston on Friday.