(Photo by Chris Pobst, Staff)
CAPE GIRARDEAU -- It was the track meet everyone was expecting -- for the first half at least.
The Scott County Central Braves crossed the finish line first, however, as they knocked off the Charleston Bluejays 84-61 in the championship semifinals of the Southeast Missourian Christmas Tournament on Wednesday.
The Braves will play the Jackson Indians in the tournament finale today at 8 p.m. following the Indians 44-41 victory over Cape Central in the second semifinals game Wednesday night.
Keeping up with the fast-paced Braves, Charleston showed they could keep pace with the two-time defending tournament champs.
In the first quarter, the Bluejays matched every bucket by Scott Central creating a battle for early leverage. Charleston was up by as much as six points on the Braves after a basket by junior Greg Tucker made it 16-10 with just over three minutes remaining in the first quarter.
"We came out, really, just making shots," Tucker said. "We were kind of going back-and-forth there for a while."
Nonetheless, Scott Central (9-2) took the lead at the end of the first quarter after a bucket by senior Otto Porter making it a 19-18 Braves advantage.
Scott Central began to inch out to a more comfortable margin by the end of halftime, stretching their lead to 41-31.
"I expected them to play 110 percent," Porter said about the Bluejays. "We just had to come back at them 110 percent. It was a physical game. They're strong."
The Braves opened up the third quarter on a 9-4 run and went up by as much as 18 points following a 3-point play by Porter.
Although the Bluejays would trim their deficit back to 10 points again at the beginning of the fourth quarter, Scott Central proved too much as they quickly jumped back out in front by 20 points and, eventually, the 84-61 final margin.
"We just all of a sudden out of nowhere just stopped making shots," Tucker said about the second half. "They started getting rebounds and a lot of put-backs.
"A lot of stuff like that just took our momentum away."
"Charleston's tough," Scott Central head coach Kenyon Wright said. "When they come down and knock shots down they're tough to beat. They're quick, they're athletic, they rebound and they're well coached.
"We're lucky to win tonight. We're lucky they missed some shots."
Porter led the Braves with 34 points and 15 rebounds. Stewart Johnson chipped in a hefty 21 points as well.
"We thought that we could guard them a little bit and make it difficult for them to score," Charleston head coach Danny Farmer said. "And we did that in the first half. There for awhile, our shots were falling. But, in order for us to stay with them we have to make about every bucket. We have to put some pressure on them and make them start thinking about it.
"But, they got to rolling."
Tucker led the Bluejays with 15 points while Michael Hull and Jerry Carter each added nine.
Charleston (7-3) will play for third-place against the Cape Central Tigers at 6:30 p.m.
Scott Central will have a chance to repeat for a third-straight time tonight against the Jackson Indians -- a Class 5 team the Braves rarely get to see in a season's time.
"We're lucky to be in the championship game," said Wright. "If you make it there, you don't know what could happen. Jackson beat Charleston and I know they're tough."
CHARLESTON (61) - Aaron Cassell 8, Maurice Moore 2, Ryan Parham 2, Michael Hull 9, Trey Watkins 2, Greg Tucker 15, Jamaul Gray 2, Claude Armstrong 8, Jerry Carter 9, Darrion Henderson 2, Krushon Scott 2. FG 27. FT 2-8. F 21. (3-pointers: Hull 1, Tucker 1, Carter 3. Fouled out: none)
SCOTT CENTRAL (84) - Stewart Johnson 21, Trey Johnson 9, Reggie Woodson 6, LaMarcus Steward 2, Otto Porter 34, Dominique Porter 12. FG 32. FT 19-27. F 14. (3-pointers: T. Johnson 1. Fouled out: Woodson)