(David Jenkins, Staff)
The No. 2 seed Charleston Bluejays will be holding the traveling trophy after stunning the top-seeded and three-time defending tournament champion Sikeston on their home floor, 75-71 in front of a capacity crowd at the Field House.
It's the third time Charleston has won the tournament after capturing the title in 2006 and 2007, which were the first two years of the tournament after it replaced the Sikeston Invitational.
"That was a good game played by two good teams," Charleston coach Danny Farmer said. "Sikeston played a very good game. We just had to play our best to beat them. Any of the two teams could have won that game."
In true Charleston and Sikeston fashion, the game went down to the wire. There were 12 lead changes and nine ties in the game with neither team holding a lead of more than six points.
Charleston's Greg Tucker, a returning all-stater, sank two free throws with five seconds left to ice the victory for the Bluejays.
"I told the kids at the beginning that we would have to leave our guts out on the floor because I knew it would be a relentless game because Sikeston had to uphold a lot and their kids really fought for it," Farmer said. "We had to play great and we had some kids play better than they've played before."
Leading the charge was junior point guard Ryan Parham who carried the team by scoring 15 of his game-high 23 points in the second half. Normally not a dangerous perimeter shooter, Parham showed his range by sinking three 3-pointers.
"He had to play his best game ever in order for us to come out of here with a win," Farmer said of Parham. "That's the stuff you've got to do. You've got to take it to another level when you're playing somebody good."
It was a game of runs as Sikeston seized control right off the tip on a Vashawn Ruffin 3-pointer. Sikeston led 5-0, but Charleston rallied to lead 14-9 with 1:19 left in the first quarter.
Sikeston then rallied to tie the game at 14-14 at the end of one.
The two teams battled back and forth in the second quarter as the Bulldogs settled for a 34-32 lead at the half.
The Bulldogs (5-1), who were riding a 35-game winning streak coming into the game, appeared to be in fine shape as they started to open up a lead at 44-38 on a Ruffin 3-point play with 5:42 left in the period.
Farmer immediately called a timeout to settle down his troops, fearing that Sikeston was on the verge of one of its patented third quarter runs.
"I've been watching Sikeston and they come out in the third quarter and they take care of business," Farmer said. "I didn't want that to happen. I wanted to try to stay close through the third."
The Bluejays kept it close for the next few minutes but again found themselves down 52-46 on a Ruffin 3-pointer with 2:40 left in the third, but Tucker answered on the ensuing trip with a 3-pointer of his own to again stop the Bulldog run.
"Charleston just showed a lot of heart," Sikeston coach Gregg Holifield said. "We got up six points at one time and we never could build that lead. You just have to give them credit, they just did a great job. They played very well and they hit shots. That's the bottom line, they knocked shots down."
Sikeston still led 57-56 heading into the fourth quarter and led by as much as 63-58 on a J.T. Jones basket with 6:35 left in the game.
But the Bluejays caught fire from there with Aaron Cassell and Parham knocking down back-to-back 3-pointers to take a 64-63 lead.
From that point forward it seemed as if Sikeston was now chasing the Bluejays until the end.
Charleston had a four point possession on one trip when Tucker made a free throw, missed the second only to see Trey Watkins sneak in for the offensive rebound and findi Jamaul Gray for a 3-pointer to lead 68-64.
Sikeston managed to tie the game at 68-68 on a Terry Jamison drive with 3:30 left, but that was the last time the Bulldogs would knot the score.
Sikeston got to within 70-69 on a Keldon Warfield free throw and, trailing 72-69, had an opportunity to tie the game moments later on a very deep Kil'Ron Coleman 3-point attempt, but it was off the mark.
Tucker hit 3-of-4 from the free throw line to ice the victory in the final 14 seconds.
"It's just really a great accomplishment -- we knew that we could come in here and win it and compete with this team," said Tucker, who scored 17 points. "It's really wonderful because me being a senior, I've been here three years before and not to win it, and then my senior year to come and win it and plus it's our biggest rival -- it's definitely a great feeling."
The Bluejays hit nine 3-pointers in the game, something that Farmer expects to see more of as the season progresses.
"We shot it well, but we were going to have to shoot it well in order to win," Farmer said. "We're capable of that. We're capable of a few more kids hitting big shots. This is by far the best game we've played the whole year."
Sikeston, however, was only 4-for-17 from the 3-point line in the game. Ruffin hit three of those 3-pointers on his way to a team-high 17 points.
Sophomore J.T. Jones followed up with 16 points, nine rebounds and four steals.
Jamison had 15 points and four assists.
Gray scored 12 points and Krushon Scott, who also was a force on the boards, added 10 points for the Bluejays.
"We've got to do a better job of closing out on shooters," Holifield said. "We've got to do a better job of blocking out and rebounding. We've got to do a better job of eliminating dribble penetration, which will come with practice time. But you can't take anything away from what Charleston did, because they really played well tonight."
Not only did Charleston snap Sikeston's winning streak at 35, they also snapped the Bulldogs' 51-game home winning streak, marking their first loss at home since 2007.
It's the third longest home winning streak in state history according to the MSHSAA records book.
It's also the first time Charleston has defeated Sikeston since 2006, snapping a losing streak of five games to the Bulldogs.
"They really defended that 51-game home winning streak well," Farmer said. "It's always a tough tournament and it was a thrilling victory for us. We're happy to hold that trophy again for a year. Well at least a year."
CHARLESTON (75) -- Ryan Parham 23, Greg Tucker 17, Jamaul Gray 12, Krushon Scott 10, Michael Hull 7, Aaron Cassell 5, Trey Watkins 1. FG 20, FT 8-18, F 15. (3-pointers: Parham 3, Tucker 2, Gray 2, Cassell 1, Hull 1. Fouled out: none).
SIKESTON (71) -- Vashawn Ruffin 17, J.T. Jones 16, Terry Jamison 15, Kil'Ron Coleman 9, Markeith Bratcher 7, Keldon Warfield 5, Caleb McGee 2. FG 25, FT 9-15, F 21. (3-pointers: Ruffin 3, Coleman 1. Fouled out: none).
Notre Dame 52, Cape Central 44
Fourth-seeded Notre Dame toppled third seed Cape Central to capture the third place trophy.
Nathan Meystedt led all scorers with 21 points for the Bulldogs. Cape Central was led by sophomore Jamal Cox's 16 points.
CAPE CENTRAL (44) -- Jamal Cox 16, T.J. Tisdell 13, Tim Booker 11, Devon Johnson 2, Vance Toole 2. FG 14, FT 7-10, F 14. (3-pointers: Booker 3. Fouled out: none).
NOTRE DAME (52) -- Nathan Meystedt 21, Jordan Reddin 8, Joe Siebert 8, Cody Heisserer 7, Jonathan Lynch 6, Patrick Williamson 2. FG 19, FT 7-12, F 14. (3-pointers: Meystedt 1, Siebert 1. Fouled out: none).