"It was probably the best one we've had yet, as far as the matchups and the attendance," said tournament director Lennies McFerren. "All we're trying to do is put on a good exhibition of basketball and have people come in and enjoy it. Without a doubt, it was a success."
Final day matchups produced one victory by a single point and another by a two-point margin in games that went to the wire with thrilling finishes. A third contest featured Missouri's 2005 Class 5 runner-up Vashon versus Arkansas' 2005 Class 5A -- the state's largest class -- champion West Memphis.
Williams, Sherrell lead Jays
In the most entertaining contest of the evening, the Charleston Bluejays won their second game of the tourney, outlasting Memphis Central, 70-68.
Charleston guard Shawn Sherrell's coast-to-coast runner from eight feet with five seconds remaining proved to be the gamewinner. Memphis Central's Marquse Lewis' jumper to tie at the buzzer was waved off, released just a split second after time expired.
The Bluejays led 33-24 at the half and went into the final period up 49-45, but needed huge fourth-quarter efforts from Jamarcus Williams and Sherrell to hold off the Warriors.
The 6-foot-5 Williams, who led Charleston with 30 points, hit 10 in the fourth quarter, including 6-of-6 crucial free throws down the stretch. Besides the winning shot, Sherrell nailed a baseline jumper to lift the Bluejays into the lead at 68-66 with 40 seconds left. He had six of his 18 points in the final quarter.
"We kept our composure at the end," said Charleston coach Danny Farmer. "We were up, they came back, took the lead and we could have folded, but we hung in and made our free throws when they counted. That's the poise of an experienced team. Our experience won one for us tonight."
Other scorers for Charleston were Justin Clark with 12, freshman Antonio Riggens with six and Josh Thompson with four.
Memphis Central's scoring was paced by Reuben Clayton with 29. Lewis and Trey Payne chipped in with 14 and 10, respectively.
On his team's 2-0 start, Farmer said, "This group of kids came in working so hard that I'm really not surprised. We've had a good showing here against two super-talented teams."
The Bluejays defeated Byhalia (Miss.) 78-70 on Friday.
Team captain Williams, on his feel for this Bluejay team and how far it can go, said confidently,"First place in state."
The West Memphis Blue Devils, with only one returning starter, couldn't match the firepower of the talented Vashon Wolverines in a 53-36 loss.
Three Vashon players, all-stater Bobby Hill, James Washington and Leon Powell, rammed home 15 points apiece, while West Memphis' leading scorer Jason Henry garnered game-high honors with 23, but no other Blue Devil scored more than four.
However, the aerial show of the high flyers -- 6-5 Hill, 6-7 Henry and 6-7 Powell, particularly -- was entertaining to watch.
Both Vashon coach Floyd Irons, winner of nine state championships, and West Memphis coach Larry Bray, who has guided the Blue Devils to back-to-back state titles, put their attraction for the Riverbend Classic into perspective.
Irons, who has brought his team to the tournament every year since its inception in 1994, said, "Win, lose or draw. Coming to New Madrid is always successful for us because we come here for one reason and that is to bond and open somewhere other than home and there's no better place than here.
"Now, I can go places where they might pay us a little bit more money, but we don't get this kind of hospitality and the competition is no better anywhere else.
"Lennies and his staff do a tremendous job and the fans here are very knowledgeable and appreciate good basketball."
On the 2005-06 version of his Vashon squad, Irons, who lost only two players through graduation, added, "This (tournament) tells us a lot about our team. Now we're ready to go and get ready for what we have to do around St. Louis. I really like this team. We're a lot deeper this year than last year. My kids have matured and had a chance to play together over the summer, learn and understand what we're trying to do."
Bray, who has brought teams to the Classic for seven years, expressed similar thoughts.
"It's a fun place to come and we enjoy coming here," he said. "I know they have great competition up here, so we want to just play and learn what we need to do to get better.
"I just want them (players) to see what the fire's like. Bringing them here gives us a good opportunity to know what level we need to play on if we want to succeed."
West Memphis split its two games, defeating Bell City 61-47 on Friday, while Vashon remained unbeaten in Classic competition.
The Jackson Indians, making their Classic debut, rallied from a 36-25 halftime deficit to overcome the Pine Bluff Zebras, 52-51.
A rise in Jackson's defensive intensity in combination with Pine Bluff's second-half conservatism on the offensive end fueled the comeback.
Kyle Pridemore converted a layup and two clutch free throws to tally the Indians' final four points for a 52-48 edge with less than 30 seconds remaining. A Zebra' 3-pointer at the buzzer closed the scoring.
Drue McNeely paced the Indians with 14 points while Hunter Grantham (9), Trey Stone (8), Pridemore (8) and 6-11 Aaron Redecker (7) contributed to a balanced scoring ledger.
Pine Bluff was led by Allen Smith with 10 points, Johnathan Carroll with nine and Angelo Medcalf and Stedman Harper with eight each.
A 2004-05 state playoff semifinalist in Arkansas' Class 5A, Pine Bluff was hit hard by graduation and fell to its second Classic defeat, losing 68-40 to Vashon on Friday.
Jackson was scheduled for only one game.
The day's opening game pitted the host New Madrid County Central Eagles against the Byhalia Indians.
The Eagles, coached by Lennies McFerren, jumped to a 19-14 first-quarter lead and went into halftime tied at 30.
Then the Eagles' inexperience began to show with a bundle of turnovers and forced shots as it began to unravel. Byhalia led 54-46 after three quarters. A 7-0 run in the middle of the fourth period pushed the Indians to a comfortable 13-point advantage with about three minutes to go.
Reggie Cole and Antonio McIntosh shared scoring honors for the Eagles with 14 points apiece and Jordan Kimball added 13. Shaun Newsom (7), Dontrey Washington (5), Terrard Long (2) and Leslie Williams (2) completed the NMCC scoring.
Byhalia was topped by Cordell Jefferson with 20, Demarius Moore with 18 and Adarryl Richmond with 14.
NMCC fell to 0-2, also suffering a 63-53 loss to Memphis Central on Friday.
Also on tap Saturday was celebration of the 1968 Class S runner-up Howardville Hawks, the first all-black team to compete in a Missouri state championship game.
The Hawks lost 76-73 in four overtimes, still the longest championship game in Missouri history, to the undefeated all-white Bradleyville Eagles.
Nearly all of the team members plus its cheerleaders were present for the salute.
"My hat's off to them," said McFerren. "Most of them made a special trip to get here for this day."
In addition, the '74 and '75 Class 2A state champion Lilbourn Panthers were honored.
Said McFerren, "There was a lot of stuff that you would have to say you were proud to be part of--the '68 Hawks, the '74 and '75 Lilbourn teams and the honoring of the coaches, players and officials. And you got a lot of basketball for $5. You've got to love it.
"I'll sleep good tonight knowing that everybody walked out of here happy."