(Photo by Derek James, Staff)
COLUMBIA -- For four years the Charleston Bluejays left Columbia without the big prize, but Shawn Sherrell and his senior teammates made sure that they wouldn't be denied in their final trip to the MSHSAA Show Me Showdown.
Sherrell put on a show in the Class 3 state championship game Friday afternoon at Mizzou Arena as the Bluejays rolled past Pembroke Hill 66-48 to capture Charleston's 10th title in school history and the first since 1996.
"It's a great feeling," said Charleston coach Danny Farmer. "You set a goal. You set a goal five times and you finally reach it your fifth time. I have three great seniors that have been playing varsity ball for four years. If we didn't win it, it would have been a failure in our minds."
Sherrell, a second-team all-state player a year ago, pumped in 27 points with five rebounds and three steals, scoring on an assortment of pull-up jumpers as he consistently found the soft spots in the Raiders' zone defense.
"This was the last time I was going to wear a Charleston Bluejay uniform," said Sherrell. "I knew in the fourth quarter this was our game. Everybody on the team played a good game. I just left my heart on the floor."
Sherrell, along with senior classmates Jamarcus Williams and Justin Clark, have been on the losing end of the championship game the last two years and played on a third place team as freshmen.
Williams overcame a bad ankle -- in addition to his ongoing recovery from a broken leg last fall -- to score 14 points with eight rebounds and two steals.
"It was time," said Williams. "We all grew up together. We knew our strengths and weaknesses. Without this our basketball career wouldn't be complete. There would be something missing. We wanted it too bad. We've been hungry. It was impossible for us to let this game slip away."
Clark, who carried the Bluejay team most of the year, overcame a poor shooting performance in Columbia to score 13 points with five rebounds.
"I don't think it's kicked in yet," said Clark. "We've been up here for four years and come up short, but this is our senior year and we wanted it."
But the real story was Charleston's defense, which contained 6-foot-7, 230-
pound Pembroke junior Spencer Ladner, and completely shut down the rest of the team.
Ladner scored 17 points with 11 rebounds, but became clearly fatigued in the second half of Friday's game, scoring only six points in the second half.
Nearly every time Ladner touched the ball, a second Charleston defender was in the vicinity.
"I've been double-teamed before, but the two guys that double-teamed me this time were bigger and more athletic which made it tougher to get position," said Ladner.
Farmer pointed out the defensive job senior Jerrell Quinn and junior Brian Parham did on Ladner. Quinn also had four points and seven rebounds before fouling out.
"They did a tremendous job on the big guy," said Farmer. "We tired him out. We scouted the first game and we knew they wanted to go to the big guy. I thought we played great defense, especially on the big guy. We made him earn every bucket and I think we got him tired with our pressure."
Pembroke coach Rick Frager said Charleston's experience in the final four gave them an edge over the Raiders, who were making their first trip to state since 1999.
"They're a good team -- we've faced some tough teams," said Frager. "I don't know if we were intimidated by them. We've played some teams in Kansas that were tough, but the one thing (Charleston) had was they've been here before. (Sherrell) was not going to let his team lose. They were smooth and relaxed when they shot the ball and we were not relaxed when we shot the ball."
After a sluggish performance in a closer-than-expected semifinal victory by the Bluejays, Farmer wanted to make sure his team didn't come into the championship game uptight.
"I felt we were a lot more relaxed today," said Farmer. "We said before the game, 'let's go out and have fun.' I think we have a tenedency to stress ourselves out sometimes. We just wanted to relax and have fun in this game."
The first quarter was fairly slow-paced, but the Bluejays still managed a 10-8 lead as Ladner scored at the buzzer.
Charleston (29-3) dominated the rest of the way.
The Bluejays controlled the second quarter, out-scoring Pembroke 20-9, to take a 30-17 lead into halftime.
Sherrell had 15 points at the half, but his shooting brought the Raiders out of the zone they started with.
"I'm not a great zone coach and we're not a great zone team," said Frager. "(Sherrell) split the seams in the zone. He got in the middle of the lane and hit his shots. They've just got so many options out there. I mean (Clark) is a great player, as good as we've seen."
They pulled away even further in the third quarter, leading 42-26 heading into the final frame.
The Raiders (24-7) got no closer than 14 points the rest of the way as Charleston led by as much as 23 points at 65-42 in the final moments.
After Ladner, no other player for scored in double figures for Pembroke Hill. Charleston out-rebounded the bigger Raider team 41-32, including 16 on the offensive end.
The Bluejays also took care of business at the charity stripe, making 15-
of-21. Charleston shot 24-57 from the field. Pembroke was just 19-50 from the field and just 8-16 from the free throw line.
For Pembroke Hill, the school was denied its first state championship. The school actually won three straight state titles in the late 1990s, but all three were stripped when it was found they used ineligible players.
Charleston, which finished the year with 18 straight victories, will graduate eight seniors from this year's team. After capturing five state titles in girls basketball at Scott County Central, Farmer was relieved to win his first on the boys side.
"This is the most focused group of kids I've coached," said Farmer, now in his 10th year as Charleston's head coach. "I don't have to tell them anything. They do the things they need to do to win. I think being up here and seeing the mistakes we've made in the past helped us win this year. To be honest, I felt this was the last chance. To win it one time is great. The puzzle just fit right together. It was the right group of kids at the right time."
Charleston 66, Pembroke Hill 48
|Pembroke Hill||FG-A||3FG-A||FT-A||PTS||REB Jack Winter||0-0||0-0||0-0||0||1|
|Spencer Ladner 8-140-0||1-5||17||11|
|Ethan White||4-6||0-0 0-2||8||2|
|Joseph Watts||0-1 0-1 0-0||0||0|
Score by quarters:
Pembroke Hill Raiders 08 09 09 22 - 48
Charleston Blue Jays 10 20 12 24 - 66
Assists: Pembroke Hill 9 (Wurster 7, White 1, Johnson 1); Charleston 7 (Williams 3, S. Sherrell 2, Clark 2)
Turnovers: Pembroke Hill 15; Charleston 8
Blocks: Pembroke Hill 2 (Ladner 2); Charleston 0
Steals: Pembroke Hill 2 (Wurster 2); Charleston 9 (S. Sherrell 3, J. Sherrell 2, Williams 2, Clark 1, Gillespie 1)
Fouled out: Quinn (Charleston)