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Tuesday, Sep. 2, 2014

District thriller

Sunday, March 8, 2009

(Photo)
CHARLESTON -- After a one-year layoff the Charleston Bluejays have once again reclaimed the Class 3, District 1 title. The Bluejays grinded it out with the New Madrid County Central Eagles on Friday evening and came away with a buzzer-beater victory by a final score of 59-57.

The two squads battled it out in the first quarter with Charleston coming away with a one point lead, 14-13, but in the second quarter the Bluejays appeared to have the game under control to some degree. They outscored the Eagles 18-8 in the quarter leading up to halftime and at the break the score was Charleston 32, NMCC 21.

The Eagles were determined not to go down without a fight as they pounded the glass in the third quarter and put up 17 points behind Kony Ealy and Josh Minner. Ealy had seven in the quarter while Minner added five, including a 3-pointer. Heading into the fourth the score was 45-38 in favor of Charleston.

In the final eight minutes, the game took an interesting twist. Each time the Eagles chipped into the lead the Bluejays responded with a field goal of their own. However, as the scoreboard read 49-40 in favor of Charleston, NMCC grabbed momentum.

In a matter of minutes the nine point deficit was cut to just one point as Jamareia Jones connected on 1-of-2 free throws.

Donald Dixon responded for the Bluejays but a quick turnover by Charleston seconds later and a foul with 2:40 remaining, left the door wide open for the opposing squad.

Dontre Jenkins knocked down two free throws to make the score 51-50, but it was Dixon on the other end of the floor seconds later going 2-for-2 at the line to make it a three-point game yet again in favor of the Bluejays.

The trend continued at the charity stripe until a 57-54 lead was erased with 6.2 seconds left on a 3-pointer by Jenkins from the top of the key.

After a timeout, Charleston had the ball on NMCC's end of the floor. Jeremy Spencer split the defense and made it up the floor dishing to Chase McClendon who connected on a layup as time expired, giving the Bluejays the district title on the two point victory.

"We hung in right to the end," said Charleston head coach Danny Farmer following the win. "I knew going in that New Madrid was a very, very strong team. That's why New Madrid is able to play Sikeston, because they're so strong. They're able to match strength with them.

"I was concerned about the strength and the rebounding, keeping them off the boards. Our guys fought for 32 minutes all the way up until the end."

Rebounding was key to the victory for the Bluejays Friday evening. The trio of Ealy, Minner and G'Darius Stevenson tend to rack up boards for the Eagles night-in and night-out, but Dixon and McClendon held their ground with their opponent for 32 minutes.

"The effort is there," said Farmer of his squad's rebounding in the win. "We're focused right now. They want to win and they feel like they really have a legit chance to go to the Final Four. That's what's in their head right now. We really believe right now, that's one reason we're playing like this."

Dixon led all scorers with 22 points for Charleston. He was 8-for-9 from the charity stripe. Spencer added 10 and Deonte Jones chipped in with eight.

As for the shot that won it all, McClendon jokingly said he was thinking 'please don't miss.'

"Actually, I was running through my head, when we broke (the press) I was like, I have a feeling I'm going to get it," said McClendon of the final play. "If I make it, I make it. If I miss it then I'm going to Lindenwood (his college destination) early.

"We had just discussed it in the huddle -- we were playing Portageville, we were down by one with 10 seconds left and Jeremy (Spencer) drove it down and found (Demarquez) McKeller for the easy put in and we won the game. The same thing happened (tonight), except I was lucky enough to make the little chip shot."

McClendon reiterated the statement his head coach made about the rebounding display in the win and agreed that NMCC was one of the best rebounding teams in the area this season.

The major reason for defeat for the Eagles Friday evening was poor free throw shooting. Charleston was a solid 18-for-21 from the line while NMCC connected on just 12-of-21 attempts from the charity stripe.

NMCC head coach Travis Day said he told his squad that they had to take this into next season and use it as a building block.

"With so many guys coming back, you just tell them, 'guys we've got to learn from this,'" said Day. "If we hit our free throws it doesn't come down to the last second shot. We've just got to get in the gym all summer long and make sure we don't quit like this again."

Day said that he loses just two seniors, Minner and Terry Young, and that a good nucleus is returning next season, including two major scoring threats Ealy and Jenkins.

"You never want them to lose that last game," said Day of his senior players. "But, they showed a lot of character. We played hard all year long and this is how all of our games are. We've got a never quit mentality. We're going to keep battling the best we can."

Minner finished with 21 points, Jenkins scored 17 and Ealy wrapped up the double-figure scoring with 14.

The Eagles finished the season with a 16-10 record.

Charleston improves to 17-9 on the season and the victory gives Farmer his 500th win of his career. Farmer didn't mention the accomplishment following the game but Charleston girls' head coach Michael Minner said that shows the character of the boys' leader.

"He didn't say anything but that's just the kind of man he is," said Minner. "I've learned a lot from Coach Farmer. He's the right man for this program."

The Bluejays will be in search of their 18th victory Wednesday evening as they battle Bloomfield in sectional action at Poplar Bluff High School. Tip-off is set for 6 p.m.

NMCC13 81719--57
Charleston14181314--59

NMCC (57) -- Dontre Jenkins 17, Jamareia Jones 3, Josh Minner 21, Kony Ealy 14, Terry Young 2. FG 21, FT 12-21, F 17. (3-pointers: Jenkins 2, Minner 1. Fouled out: Jones.)

CHARLESTON (59) -- Antonio Riggens 4, Akeem Sharp 7, Jeremy Spencer 10, Deonte Jones 8, Demarquez McKeller 2, Donald Dixon 22, Chase McClendon 6. FG 19, FT 18-21, F 14. (3-pointers: Jones 2, Spencer 1. Fouled out: Riggens.)