CHARLESTON -- The Charleston Bluejays withstood a furious second-half rally by the Notre Dame Bulldogs to escape with a 73-71 SEMO Conference victory on Saturday.
Senior guard Shawn Sherrell's runner in the lane with 1.5 seconds left rescued the 'Jays, who saw a 16-point halftime lead vanish.
"We wanted to spread the floor and let him go one-on-one and use his patented shot," said Charleston coach Danny Farmer of Sherrell's gamewinner.
It was the Bluejays' third win in three meetings with the Bulldogs. Charleston previously won 83-73 and 76-63.
"It's hard to beat a team three times and I knew, going into this game, that it wasn't going to be easy," said Farmer. "We were fortunate to win it."
The contest between the two state-ranked teams, originally scheduled for Jan. 2 and twice postponed, opened like a Charleston blowout in the making.
Charleston, ranked second in Class 3 in the latest state poll, fell behind 7-1 before calling a timeout to regroup.
Regroup they did. With all-stater Jamarcus Williams active inside and even stepping out beyond the arc to nail a 3-pointer, the Bluejays went on a 25-3 tear to take a 26-10 first-quarter lead.
Williams scored nine points and senior forward Justin Clark knocked down two 3's in the period.
The Bluejays (16-3, 5-1 in conference) maintained the 16-point advantage for a 44-28 halftime lead.
Ryan Willen, Notre Dame's 6-foot-7 junior post, kept the Bulldogs within reach with 11 second-quarter points.
"We jumped out good, but any Notre Dame team is going to keep playing," said Farmer. "They're not going to quit."
Notre Dame (17-4, 4-1), ranked fifth in Class 4, began to chip away at the Charleston lead, narrowing the gap to nine on back-to-back 3's from Willen and Mark Himmelberg as the third quarter wound down.
The Bluejays, with Williams tallying seven of the 13 third-quarter points, led 57-48 going into the final stanza.
"With the lead, we were just playing to win instead of playing (the game)," said Farmer. "We have a tendency to do that with a big lead.
"Then they hit a few big buckets, a 3 here or there, and cut the lead to single digits, then we have to respond to that and we quit responding."
Farmer's words told the story as the Bulldogs blazed down the comeback trail.
Charleston upped the lead to 63-52 with 6 minutes to go, then the Bulldogs turned it on with a 13-2 run to pull into a tie at 65 with 2:52 left. Willen's basket gave the Bulldogs their first lead, 67-65, since early in the opening quarter.
The Bluejays' premier perimeter shooter Clark connected on his fifth trey of the evening to retake the lead at 68-67 with 1:30 on the clock, but Himmelberg answered with a 2-point field goal for Notre Dame.
With 46 seconds remaining, Sherrell's floater dropped and he was fouled. He converted the conventional 3-point play to put Charleston back on top at 71-69.
Willen, who led the Bulldogs with a game-high 25 points, tied it with two clutch free throws with 22 seconds to go before Sherrell's shot secured Charleston's fifth straight win.
Said Williams, on Sherrell's gamewinner, "Shawn had shot a airball on the shot before that but he came back and shot that one with confidence. That's the thing about him. He never gets down after a mistake."
Notre Dame coach Paul Hale had nothing but praise for his squad's turnaround.
"It was a tale of two halves," he said. "We got physically whipped the first half but, in the second half, we did the whipping.
"I'm so proud of my basketball team, just as proud as if we had won, the way we battled back. We just ran out of time. We had a gut check at halftime and we were the aggressive team in the second half."
Williams topped the 'Jays with 20 points, Clark finished with 15 and Sherrell 13 with five assists and three steals.
Charleston got a big lift from 6-4 senior forward Jerrell Quinn, who grabbed a team-high 12 rebounds and was instrumental on the defensive end with five blocked shots to go along with eight points.
Sophomore guard Antonio Riggens turned in a stellar floor game with nine points, seven steals and five assists.
Himmelberg (13), Austin Greer (12) and Abe Dirnberger (10) followed Willen's 25 points.
Charleston travels to Jackson for a SEMO Conference encounter on Tuesday, while Notre Dame hosts undefeated conference leader Cape Central (4-0), also on Tuesday.
Charleston, behind Antonio Johnson's 20 points and 18 from Donald Dixon, defeated Notre Dame 62-50 in the junior varsity game. Mackenzie Ivy added 10 points for the 'Jays.
Alex Bader and Tanner Hiett paced the Bulldogs with 11 points apiece.
Charleston 73, Notre Dame 71
NOTRE DAME (71) -- Ty Williams 4, John Unterreiner 4, Ryan Willen 25, Mark Himmelberg 13, Abe Dirnberger 10, Austin Greer 12, Logan Glueck 3. FG 20, FT 13-17, F 16. (3-pointers: Himmelberg 3, Willen 2, Unterreiner 1. Fouled out: none).
CHARLESTON (73) -- Antonio Riggens 9, Shawn Sherrell 13, Jamarcus Williams 20, Jerquawn Sherrell 8, Jerrell Quinn 8, Justin Clark 15. FG 24, FT 7-12, F 16. (3-pointers: Clark 5, Williams 1. Fouled out: none).