"We responded well," said Charleston coach Danny Farmer. "We played without two of our starters (Shawn Sherrell and Josh Thompson) and won convincingly. That's what I'm pleased with, more than anything."
But it took a late surge by the No. 1-seed Bluejays to separate themselves from the No. 3-seed Cubs.
Charleston held leads of 15-14 after the first quarter, 33-32 at halftime and 54-49 as the third quarter expired.
In the fourth period, the Bluejays rang up 31 points, including 13-of-14 from the free-throw line, to defuse any comeback attempt by Bell City.
"They made shots when we had a hand in their face and they were falling away," said Bell City coach Brian Brandtner. "It seemed like they hit everything. They hit the shots they were supposed to make and probably a few that they weren't supposed to make."
Charleston shot a blistering 57 percent from the field in the second half.
Brandtner, on his team's performance, said, "The real difference tonight was rebounding, turnovers and free throws. I think we're right in this game if we hit our free throws."
Bell City went 11-of-21 from the line while Charleston hit 19-of 26.
Brandtner, however, had no doubts about the will of his Cubs.
"We fought hard," he said. "Jackson had us down big (80-67 semifinal loss) and we fought back; Charleston had us down a couple of times and we fought back. The fight's there."
The Bluejays were again led by all-tournament selection Jamarcus Williams, who scored 29 of his tournament high 101 points, a 25.3 per-game average. The 6-foot-5 junior Williams also hauled down 12 rebounds.
"I think Jamarcus showed everybody that he is probably the best player in this tournament," said Brandtner.
Charleston junior Justin Clark also had a big game with 24 points, including four 3s. Senior Tavis Hamilton and freshman Jerquawn Sherrell added 12 and 10 points, respectively. Quick-handed freshman Antonio Riggens chipped in with eight points, six off steals.
Farmer was pleased with the play of both freshmen guards.
"Both of them (Jerquawn Sherrell and Riggens) are a little bit ahead of their time for freshmen," he said. "They didn't turn it over and they played hard on defense. Sherrell played well down low, got some rebounds and hit some big free throws for us."
Six-foot-10 junior Will Bogan, also an all-tournament choice, topped Bell City scoring with 25 points and sophomore sharpshooter Nick Niemcyzk added 16 with three 3s.
Brandtner felt his Cubs could have fared better had they gotten the ball in to Bogan more consistently.
"We're still not real sure what we're looking for on offense," he said. "There were times when we didn't get the ball to Will (Bogan) for minutes at a time and that can't happen for us to be good. He's got to touch the ball and that makes everybody better."
How disappointing was Charleston's failure to both justify its high seed and reach the final for the third straight season?
Farmer, downplaying the Bluejays' inability to capture a 16th Christmas Tournament title while alluding to the ultimate goal of a state title, said, "We just want to end the year with a win."
The Notre Dame boys basketball team completed its upset-driven run through the Southeast Missourian Christmas Tournament by knocking off No. 2 Jackson 74-65 in the championship game Friday night at the Show Me Center.
The fifth-seeded Bulldogs brought home their first tournament title since 1986 by defeating fourth-seeded Central, No. 1 Charleston and then ending No. 2 Jackson's string at two straight tournament titles.
"We have a special team," Notre Dame senior Alex Ressel said. "We have a lot of determination. Our guys trust each other a lot. We have a great team." The Bulldogs (11-1) took a first-half lead thanks to their relentless press, but it was their shooting which eventually proved to be the difference.
After the Indians had clawed back to take a 52-51 lead less than a minute into the fourth -- the lead was the first for Jackson since being up 6-0 in the opening minutes of the game -- Notre Dame hit three 3-pointers down the stretch to pull out the victory.
"They got some opportunities to get some open looks and they knocked them down to get the lead back," Jackson coach Darrin Scott said. "That was the key part in the game."
Senior guard Xavier Delph's 3-pointer midway through the quarter put Notre Dame up 58-52.
Jackson inched back to within one at 60-59 before sophomore Ryan Willen hit a 3-pointer to push the lead to 63-59 and put away the Indians for good.
Senior guard Kirk Boeller led the 3-point attack for the Bulldogs with three 3s and finished with 15 points. Delph had two 3-pointers and Willen had one. "Kirk hit some big 3s and picked us up, but the biggest basket of the game was when Willen hit that 3," Notre Dame coach Paul Hale said.
Willen and Delph both played despite being severely under the weather.
"They were sick, but we weren't going to use that as an excuse," Hale said. "Those kids are gutsy kids, along with the rest of our bunch."
The area Jackson (12-2) was supposed to dominate -- in the interior -- was dominated by the 6-foot-3 Ressel.
Despite facing 6-11 senior Aaron Redecker and 6-6 sophomore Hunter Grantham, Ressel finished with a game-high 22 points.
"He just went one-on-one there and beat Aaron," Scott said. "I thought Hunter did a better job in stopping him, but he played well."
Ressel finished with 12 points in the opening half and had 10 after the break. Six of those points came in the decisive fourth quarter.
"I just tried to be physical with them, get in their heads," Ressel said. "I knew I could go up against them. I just tried to use my moves."
Added Hale: "I thought Alex was a man among boys."
Grantham again was a force on offense for the Indians. For the second straight night, Grantham finished with 16 points.
Grantham did much of his damage in the third quarter, scoring eight of Jackson's first 10 points in the quarter to help bridge an eight-point Notre Dame halftime lead.
Scott said Grantham just keeps getting better.
"With his heart, and the way he battled, I thought he played a great game," Scott said. "If we could have gotten them [Grantham and Redecker] the ball more, the outcome could have been better for us."
Redecker finished with 13 points, including a pair of monstrous dunks in the opening minute to get the Indians out to a 6-0 lead.
It was Redecker's defense which made the biggest impact, though, with five blocks in the second half.
Notre Dame's senior guard combo of Delph and Frankie Ellis combined for 22 points.
Delph, Ellis and Ressel all made the all-tournament team. Hale said the win was the result of each player knowing their roles on the team.
"I think the biggest thing is we have role players who do their job -- starter and off the bench -- and they did their job well," Hale said.
Jackson senior guard Drue McNeely scored 16 points, and Kyle Pridemore finished with 12.
This was the second time this season the Indians have lost in a tournament final, with their only other loss coming to Doniphan in the finals of the Farmington Tournament.
Notre Dame picked up its second tournament title after winning the Woodland Tournament.
"Who would have thought after playing overtime with Meadow Heights in the Woodland Tournament we'd beat Jackson a month later," Hale said. "We have made giant strides from the start of the season."
Scott City sophomore forward Alex King finished with a game-high 25 points as the Rams bounced back from an opening round upset to bring home the consolation championship of the Southeast Missourian Christmas Tournament 82-61 over No. 8 Scott County Central on Friday at the Show Me Center.
The seventh-seeded Rams fell to No. 10 Meadow Heights in the opening round, but won three straight.
"It's easy to get in the consolation and fold up tent, lose to someone you're not supposed to," Scott City coach Lance Amick said. "The kids did a nice job. I'm a firm believer things happen for a reason."
The Braves kept things close in the opening half, trailing by as few as three points late in the half. With no player taller than 6-foot-1 on the floor, though, Scott County was eventually worn down by Scott City's size.
King, a 6-5 sophomore, scored 15 points in the second half, including 11 in the third quarter. Scott City led by 23 after three quarters and cruised from there.
"He rebounded hard," said Amick of King.
The coach added, "You have to give a lot of the credit for those points to our four guards."
Scott City's guards had plenty of shooting as well passing to King.
Sophomore Ethan Watkins had 16 points, and junior Jamie Pinkston finished with 15. Pinkston had eight in the opening quarter.
"We started off hot," Amick said. "Jamie Pinkston scored 14 points, and I think that's a season-high for him."
Some late turnovers helped push Scott County over the 60-point barrier, but for much of the game Scott City's defense held the Braves in check.
D.D. Gillespie carried the Braves with 26 points, and Caleb Johnson added 16. "Our defense got better in the second half," Amick said. "Through Monday to today our defense has improved 75 percent. We're actually taking pride in what we're doing."
Since Kelly graduated four starters from last season's team that reached the Southeast Missourian Christmas Tournament championship game, not much was expected from the Hawks in this year's event.
But they had other ideas.
Kelly, despite being seeded just ninth in the 16-team field, finished fifth by virtue of Friday's 63-60 overtime victory against Advance at the Show Me Center.
The Hornets matched their seed by placing sixth. "We lost a lot of great guys last year, but we've got a good group this year," Kelly senior Brandon Ayers said. "And we've got one of the best coaches around."
That coach, former Southeast Missouri State sharpshooting guard Cory Johnson, has the Hawks rolling again during his second season in charge of the program.
Kelly went 21-6 last year and is off to an 8-3 start this season. They avenged two of those three losses this week by beating Advance and Scott County Central.
"I told the guys we should be proud of this. Two years in a row we got seeded pretty low and came out with three wins," said Johnson, whose squad was seeded seventh last year but finished second. "We were kind of written off this year, but these guys really work hard. I like this team."
Ayers led the Hawks with 16 points and finished the tournament with 66 points. Junior Dallas Tew, who had scored just 15 points in Kelly's first three tournament games, contributed 14 points. Junior center Spencer Ayers, Brandon's younger brother, added 13 points and ended with 79 points to earn all-tournament honors.
Spencer Ayers had 35 points during a first-round win over Scott County Central.
"The Ayers boys both had great tournaments, and Dallas Tew played really well today," Johnson said. "We got a lot of contributions."
Advance (6-5) was paced by senior Daryl Wade with 17 points. Senior Jeremy Limbaugh scored 12 points, while senior James Masters and junior Alex Steil both added 11 points.
Steil scored 73 points in Advance's four tournament games and made the all-
tourney squad. In a game that was close most of the way -- neither squad led by more than eight points -- Advance appeared to have the upper hand when it expanded a 32-27 halftime advantage to 39-32 early in the third quarter.
Kelly closed to within 44-41 entering the fourth quarter, then took its first lead since midway through the second period as Tew's 3-pointer put the Hawks up 47-46 with 6:17 remaining.
The Hawks stayed ahead and appeared to have control when Russell Carroll made both ends of a one-and-one with 12 seconds left for a 53-50 advantage. But Steil drilled a 3-pointer from the right corner with three seconds left to forge a 53-53 tie.
It was on to overtime -- but Johnson said the Hawks were not deflated. "You have to stay focused when that happens," Johnson said. "We were very resilient all tournament."
Advance held two leads early in the four-minute extra session, but Kelly went ahead for good, 57-56, on Jordan Felter's layup with 2:41 remaining. Kelly went up by four points, 60-56, on Felter's layup with 1:35 left, and the Hawks were able to hold on down the stretch.
The Hornets closed to within 61-60 on two Wade free throws with 17 seconds to go.
Tew made one of two foul shots two seconds later, then recorded a big block on Steil's drive.
Tew again hit one of two foul shots with 4.7 seconds left for the final 63-60 margin, and Steil's half-court shot was well off at the buzzer.
"We're 8-3 and those have probably been eight pretty ugly wins, but it's not because of a lack of effort," said a smiling Johnson, whose squad avenged a season-opening 72-59 loss to Advance in the Oran Tournament. "I'm proud of them."
Jamarcus Williams, Charleston
Spender Ayers, Kelly
Will Bogan, Bell City
Ethan Watkins, Scott City
Jake Leet, Jackson
Aaron Redecker, Jackson
Frankie Ellis, Notre Dame
Xavier Delph, Notre Dame
Alex Ressel, Notre Dame
Alex Steil, Advance