(Photo by David Jenkins, Staff)
SIKESTON -- Although they were down by eight points in the fourth quarter, the Charleston Bluejays didn't get rattled. As a matter of fact, it looked like they became calmer.
The Bluejays kept their poise and rallied back against the Cape Central Tigers on Thursday during the semifinals of the SEMO Conference Tournament at the Sikeston Field House and came away with a 59-50 win advancing them to the title game.
"We felt like, even after halftime, that we were mainly beating ourselves," Charleston's Greg Tucker said. "It wasn't really anything they were doing, it was more of how we were playing. That's why we wasn't even nervous."
After Cape Central's Jamal Cox put the Tigers up 45-37 at the beginning of the fourth quarter, Charleston answered with a 10-0 run giving them a 47-45 advantage.
Although Cape Central's T.J. Tisdell tied the game moments later, Tucker took over. The Charleston senior got to the foul line and hit one of two free throws. During the Bluejays' next possession, Tucker sank a 3-pointer from the baseline as he was fouled that prompted an eruption from Charleston fans and players alike.
Tucker, who finished with 15 points, completed the 4-point play which gave the Bluejays a 52-47 lead.
"I felt like we kept our composure and got back in the game," Charleston coach Danny Farmer said. "Our 'big game' play came into play. I haven't seen that all year on how we would respond to some adversity."
Much like the entire fourth quarter, Charleston was content on going to the foul line after Tucker's heroics. The Bluejays hit 14 of 17 free throws in the fourth quarter alone while Cape Central struggled with a 15 of 35 performance.
"We just wanted to shorten the game (in the fourth quarter)," Farmer said. "We wanted to make it a free throw shooting contest."
Charleston's biggest challenge was battling against the height advantage posed by the Tigers inside. Cape Central seemed to grab every rebound and dominate the paint as Tisdell, their primary post player, scored a game-high 24 points, including 11 in the third quarter where the Tigers built a 44-37 lead going into the fourth quarter.
But, Charleston knew how to combat that.
"We just used our speed, quickness and defense," Tucker said. "We jumped into passing lanes. You have to use your athleticism against those big guys and play smart."
Aaron Cassell led the Bluejays with 19 points while Ryan Parham chipped in with 15 as well.
Charleston moves into the championship game where they will face the Sikeston Bulldogs at 8:30 p.m.
CAPE CENTRAL (50) -- Ross McClanahan 3, Vance Toole 9, Tim Booker 8, Garan Evans 3, T.J. Tisdell 24, Jamal Cox 3. FG 16 FT 15-35 F 18 (3-pointers: McClanahan 1, Toole 1, Booker 1. Fouled out: none.)
CHARLESTON (59) -- Aaron Cassell 19, Ryan Parham 15, Greg Tucker 15, Jamaul Gray 6, Krushon Scott 2, Darrion Carter 2. FG 18 FT 16-22 F 20 (3-pointers: Cassell 3, Tucker 2, Gray 2. Fouled out: Scott.)