(Photo by Brent Shipman, Staff)
COLUMBIA -- Back in the Show Me Showdown for the first time since 2007, when they won it all, the Charleston Bluejays will face a tough test on Thursday when they take on the Hogan Prep Academy Charter Rams in the MSHSAA Class 3 semifinals.
Losing to Cardinal Ritter in the championship game last year, 93-69, the Rams will boast a considerable height advantage on the Bluejays with four of their five starters standing at least 6-2. Comparability, Charleston's tallest player is Greg Tucker who is listed at 6-2.
"They're going to be an athletic team and they have a couple of tall players that are some of their key players," Charleston head coach Danny Farmer said. "They're going to be a lot taller than we are, but we have faced tall people all year."
Among their leading big men, 6-6 Broderick Newbill and 6-2 Maurice Mason stand out as two of the Rams leading scorers.
Newbill scored a game-high 18 points for Hogan in their sectional matchup with Stockton while Mason's 16 points in the quarterfinals led the Rams to a 57-49 win over Penney.
If those two weren't imposing enough, senior captain Dominique Walker guards the center of floor of the floor standing 6-6 and 270 pounds.
Luckily for Charleston, overcoming a height disadvantage has become old hat to the Bluejays as it's something they've dealt with since the start of the season.
In just the last two games alone against Ava and Bayless, the Bluejays have sent teams packing with 6-5 and 6-3 centers respectively.
"That's going to be a definite advantage, but that can also be a disadvantage too," Farmer said of Hogan's height. "We're hoping they're not as fast as we are.
"If we can get them in a running game, which we plan to try to do, get them moving the ball, we're going to see how much depth they have."
Charleston offensive attack will likely be led once again by the duo of Greg Tucker and Jerry Carter. Tucker led the Bluejays with 34 points against Bayless while Carter added another 20 to Charleston's cause that averages 73.5 points per game.
In the few days between the quarterfinals and when they travel to Columbia on Wednesday, Farmer said he's been really impressed with the drive of his players.
"They're really focused," he said. "This team is kind of unbelievable. They play one game, then after that game is over they're ready to go again. They come into practice and are looking forward to the next contest.
"As far as being focused I think we're going to be ready."
Farmer add he notices a lot of similarities between this year squad and the on the one that beat Pembroke Hill, 66-48, for 2007 state title.
"They're the same type of kids," he said. "The kids that seem to know what it takes to win a state championship and the kids that have that hungriness of wanting to win one."
If the Bluejays can get past the Rams and prevail in championship game against the winner of Elsberry/ Strafford, it would mark the 11th state title in Charleston history. That 11th title would tie them with Vashon for second-most in state history, behind only Scott County Central's 14.
"It would be amazing this year," Farmer said of bringing home the championship. "This is one year that I went into a season really not expecting to be here and we're right there in the final four.
"If we brought back that title it would be unbelievable. It would probably take the whole summer for me to came down off that high."