(Photo by Brent Shipman, Staff)
CHARLESTON -- With the visiting Meridian, Ill. Bobcats erasing a one-time 14-point deficit to come back and tie Charleston early in the fourth quarter, the Bluejays needed someone to step up and stop what could have been a second half collapse.
Luckily for Charleston, Gregory Tucker came through with his biggest quarter of the game, scoring 15 of the Bluejays 20 points in the frame to help his team hold on for the 83-77 win.
"I started feeling it more in the fourth," Tucker said. "I don't even know. I can't even really explain. I think it's real good to come through in the clutch with free throws and everything.
"That comes from putting shots in at practice and getting prepared for it."
Coming out of the half up 44-35, Charleston was able to open up its biggest lead of the night when they went on a 6-2 run in the first two minutes of the third to go up by 14.
Not rolling over, however, the Bobcats started their comeback from that moment on, slowly working their way back in to the game until an 11-3 run to end the third put them back within four points of the Bluejays.
Key to that run was Daryl Rayford, who scored eight of those 11 points, including hitting a three from the left side of the arc to end the quarter.
Meridian's comeback was finally complete in the first minute of the fourth when Cameron Ballard connected on a three from the left corner of the court, followed by Jammerio Moore hitting 1 of 2 free throws to tie the game at 63.
Not getting flustered, the Bluejays scored their first basket of the frame to retake the lead and shortly after a timeout was called, allowing Charleston to regroup with 6:23 left to play.
From that moment on, Charleston slowly started to once again put Meridian in their rear-view mirror, thanks in large part to Tucker scoring 11 of the team's first 12 points in the quarter to push their lead back to seven.
After the Bobcats hit one more shot to make it 75-70, Charleston was able to use ball management to start running down the clock with a little under four minutes to play.
Forced to start fouling, Meridian could only watch as the Bluejays connected on 6 of 8 shots from the line in the final three-and-a-half minutes while Krushon Scott added a basket to help secure the win.
"The bench really played well tonight," Charleston head coach Danny farmer said. "I have to take my hat off to the bench.
"We hustled, played hard and hung on until the end learning how to win games like this. That's what it's all about."
On top of his 15 points in the fourth, Tucker put up another 15 in the first three quarters of play to lead the Bluejays with 30. Coming in second on the team was Jerry Carter who hit three 3-pointers as part of his 15 points.
Pushing their record to 5-2, Charleston will look to stay on the winning path when they travel to Caruthersville on Friday, where they will play the Tigers at 6 p.m.
MERIDIAN (77) -- Cameron Ballard 11, DeMarko Ransom 3, Jerry Johnson 17, Brandon Madison 13, Daryl Rayford 14, Joshua Jones 14, Jammerio Moore 5. FG 31, FT 7-11, F 26. (3-pointers: Ballard 2, Ransom 1, Johnson 2, Madison 2, Rayford 1. Fouled out: Madison).
CHARLESTON (83) -- Aaron Cassel 13, Maurice Moore 3, Ryan Parham 4, Trey Watkins 5, Gregory Tucker 30, Claude Armstrong 2, Jerry Carter 15, Krushon Scott 11. FG 25, FT 25-40, F 16. (3-pointers: Cassel 4, Moore 1, Carter 3. Fouled out: none).