(Photo by Josh Mills, Staff)
CAPE GIRARDEAU -- For eight minutes on Tuesday evening, it appeared that the Charleston Bluejays were going to take down the giant. The Bluejays, seeded fourth in the 2009 Southeast Missourian Christmas Tournament, started out against the top-seeded Scott County Central Braves in impressive fashion, taking an 8-0 lead early on in the first quarter.
As time trickled off the clock in the opening frame, Charleston maintained a decent lead, handling the Braves' pressure just fine while managing to drain 3-pointer after 3-pointer. A total of three 3's in the first quarter helped aid a 25-17 lead heading into the second.
The eight point lead however, soon found itself in danger. Eventually, a 29-21 Charleston lead gave way to a 32-31 lead as Scott Central's Otto Porter took control of the glass and the scoreboard. At 4:09 Porter pulled the Braves within one, and seconds later Bobby Hatchett gave the top seed their first lead with an impressive dunk.
Scott Central never trailed again.
Porter and Hatchett led the Braves on a 17-1 run to end the half, leaving the score in favor of the Braves 42-33 as the second quarter came to a close.
The lead improved early in the third quarter as the duo provided most of the offense that Scott Central displayed. An occasional 3-pointer rained down from the Bluejay end of the floor, but once Hatchett landed the dunk in the second quarter, the contest was completely in favor of the Braves.
Four consecutive 3-pointers pulled Charleston within eight with 3:19 remaining in the game, but Hatchett alone scored nine points to finish out the remaining time, leading the defending champions to the 79-67 victory.
Charleston head coach Danny Farmer said after the contest that his squad just ran out of energy at the wrong time.
"We felt that if we could shoot the ball well and could handle their press, that we could play with them," said Farmer. "We started out doing both. Then, right there, they got back in the game and we started turning it over on the press.
"I guess fatigue set in. We started turning it over and (Otto) Porter went wild on the offensive boards."
Farmer said that the gameplan was to keep a body on Otto Porter throughout the entire game. For a while, the Bluejays did just that, using Fabreizio Wright to do the job. Charleston ran into a problem when Wright fouled out of the contest.
"If you don't keep a body on him, then he's going to kill you," Farmer said of the Scott Central big man, Porter. "That's eventually what happened."
Porter finished the contest with a game-high 30 points for the Braves.
Fellow teammate, Hatchett, was right behind with 28 points in the win. Despite the high-scoring effort from one of the area's top guards, Farmer said he thought his squad handled Hatchett well for the most part.
"I thought we did a pretty good job on Hatchett," he said. "We made him miss a bunch of shots and he couldn't penetrate and hit that lay-up that he usually gets."
"I thought we played a pretty good game," Farmer went on to say about the rest of the contest. "I'll take it. I just wish that we could've got a few more to fall."
The Bluejays knocked down 11 3-pointers in the loss. Greg Tucker drilled five of his own, en route to a 23-point performance, while Deonte Jones hit three, scoring 19. Maurice Moore was the only other Charleston player in double figures, finishing with 12 points, including two 3-pointers.
Scott Central head coach Kenyon Wright said that he knew the Bluejays could shoot beyond the arc and said he keyed in on their top two shooters, Jones and Tucker, in the scouting report for his team. Wright said he just didn't realize there were more 3-point shooters on the roster outside of the Jones-Tucker combination.
"The other kids that we've seen from these two nights, didn't shoot (3-pointers)," said Wright. "Number 22 (Ryan Parham), he didn't shoot the ball one time from the 3-point line these last two days, then he comes out tonight and the first thing he does is catch it and knock it down. The kids came over looking at me, like 'what's going on?' It was my fault."
Wright said his squad's lackluster first quarter could've been based on a number of things, but keyed in on the fact that his Braves didn't do what they're used to doing, and that's starting out hot, right from the tip.
"We didn't come out from the get-go and fired up and get after it like we do," he said. "We've just got to get out of the gate a little bit stronger than we did today.
"Charleston's a good team. They're well-coached and they do what they're supposed to do, night-in and night-out."
Farmer said that one thing his Bluejays squad couldn't keep up with, was Scott Central's impressive endurance for the duration of a ballgame.
"I thought we could wear them down," said Farmer. "But, they're in tremendous shape."
Wright said of the Braves' endurance, that it's something that legendary coach Ronnie Cookson instilled at Scott Central, and something that Wright learned as a player as well.
"That's one of those things that I know Coach Cookson always did and I was always taught as a player, is that if you can go out and wear the other team down, then you've got a shot at getting it (the win)," said Wright. "Not everybody can go up and down like that in practice. That's one thing that I like to do. If you can get out and play like that and keep it going like that -- it's tough."
The Braves won't rest for long, as they'll take to the floor again tonight at 7:30 p.m. to defend their crown. Scott Central (9-1) will battle the Cape Central Tigers, who upset the Notre Dame Bulldogs on Tuesday evening by a final of 56-51.
As for Charleston (5-6), they'll suit up again tonight as well, as they take on Notre Dame at 6 p.m. for third place.
CHARLESTON (67) -- Maurice Moore 12, Ryan Parham 5, Greg Tucker 23, Claude Armstrong 8, Deonte Jones 19. FG 24, FT 8-13, F 24. (3-pointers -- Moore 2, Parham 1, Jones 3, Tucker 5. Fouled out -- Wright).
SCOTT CENTRAL (79) -- Stewart Johnson 8, Bobby Hatchett 28, Trey Johnson 6, Otto Porter 30, Dominique Porter 7. FG 29, FT 21-24, F 14. (3-pointers -- none. Fouled out -- none).