(Photo by Chris Pobst, Staff)
CHARLESTON -- Charleston junior Kasuela Cooper needed just three points to join the 1,000 career point club on Wednesday night. Not only did she reach the milestone, she got a good start towards the next 1,000.
Cooper scored a game-high 32 points to help the Lady Bluejays past the visiting New Madrid County Central Lady Eagles, 60-49.
"It feels very good," Cooper said about scoring 1,000 points. "I'm so happy that I could actually accomplish that my junior year."
Cooper shot 13-of-19 from the field and wreaked havoc on the glass pulling down 26 rebounds.
Knowing that there was just three points needed to be scored, Cooper admitted to being a little pressured at the start of the game. It seemed to rub off on her teammates as well as they were pressing to get Cooper the ball.
Cooper sank her first field goal off an offensive rebound with one second left in the first quarter to give the Lady Bluejays a 12-11 lead. It seemed to break the ice and she soared from there.
Cooper scored Charleston's next 12 points to begin the second quarter giving her squad a nine-point advantage.
"I felt a little pressure," said Cooper. "Once I made the first basket I knew we were good to go."
"There looked to be a little pressure there and I'm sure there was," Charleston head coach Josh Thompson said. "Once she got there, she really took off and we really took off. We really went on a roll from there."
Led by Cooper's 15, second quarter points, Charleston extended their lead to 10 points (30-20) at halftime.
NMCC (10-8) was hampered in the first half largely due to poor shooting. Noticing their struggles, Charleston conceded the long shots by simply hovering around the paint in a zone defense forcing the Lady Eagles to take outside shots.
"We struggled shooting the ball," NMCC coach David Crockett said. "They packed it in and we have to knock shots down. We didn't and we put ourselves into a hole. We started battling back but, things didn't go our way."
Although they were down by 10 to start the second half, NMCC looked to their top-scorer to bring them back into the game.
Sophomore Benesha Childress answered with eight of NMCC's first 10 points, all while holding Charleston scoreless to begin the third quarter and tying the game at 30 points apiece.
Rashaunda Summers gave the Lady Eagles a brief one-point lead after one free throw, but Cooper answered shortly after. Cooper scored eight consecutive points for the Lady Bluejays which led to a 42-36 Charleston advantage and, eventually, a 47-39 lead after the third quarter.
Childress and NMCC had one more run left in them in the fourth frame, however. Childress scored the Lady Eagles' first seven points of the quarter cutting Charleston's advantage to just three points (49-46).
However, Cooper answered, yet again, by drawing a foul against Childress, her fifth personal, and converting on a 3-point play putting Charleston back on top by six points.
With Childress now out of the game, the Lady Bluejays rattled off an 8-1 run to close out the game and give them a much-needed win in terms of district play in hopes of claiming a higher seed.
"We need the three seed," Thompson said about the Class 3, District 1 Tournament. "I'm not going to lie. There's a big difference between the three and the four. We needed to win this game and we came out and played hard and executed well."
Alongside Cooper's 32 points, Eneikqua Ewing chipped in 12 points and five rebounds in minimum action due to foul troubles. Jasmine Spence added eight points and 14 rebounds as well.
NMCC was led by Childress who scored 20 points, grabbed 10 rebounds and had three steals. Whitney Williams added 10 points and seven rebounds.
"We played hard," Crockett said. "I'm pleased with the way we played. I can't fault any effort from our girls. They didn't quit, they kept playing and kept battling."
NMCC (49) -- Brittany Johnson 7, Aqwanness Johnson 4, Benesha Childress 20, Whitney Williams 10, Karen McGloson 4, Rashaunda Summers 4. FG 20, FT 5-18, F 22. (3-pointers: Johnson 1, Childress 3. Fouled out: Childress.)
CHARLESTON (60) -- Makayla Thompson 2, Kasuela Cooper 32, Eneikqua Ewing 12, Lakeisha Wilson 6, Jasmine Spence 8. FG 26, FT 8-16, F 19. (3-pointers: none. Fouled out: Ewing.)