(Photo by Chris Pobst)
The Bulldogs entered the game averaging 75 points per contest, but the Bluejays hounded Sikeston's ball handlers and checked every shot in a 57-48 victory in front of a packed crowd between the two fierce rivals.
It's the fewest points Sikeston has scored in a game since a 51-41 loss to St. Francis Borgia in a 2009 state quarterfinal game.
It's the second time Charleston has defeated Sikeston this season, including a 75-71 victory in the SEMO Conference Tournament in December, snapping a five-year losing streak to the Bulldogs.
"It's a huge win," Charleston coach Danny Farmer said. "It's not an easy win. It's never an easy win against Sikeston, you can see the way I sweat."
The Bulldogs (10-3) could not get any offense going against the Bluejays' intense pressure defense.
Conversely, Sikeston's defense caused problems for the Bluejays as well, but it was Charleston's stellar free throw shooting in the second half that kept the Bulldogs at bay.
The Bluejays (12-1) drained 15-of-16 free throws in the second half, including 12 straight in the fourth quarter to seal the victory.
Senior Greg Tucker, a Northern Colorado signee, was a perfect 10-10 on the line, scoring all 18 of his points in the second half. He had 12 of his points in the fourth quarter, including 8-8 free throw shooting.
"We can make them at crunch time," Farmer said. "We try to practice to make free throws. You've got to make them. It's really important. There at the end we try to get it in Greg's hands because he's the best free throw shooter. It's almost automatic when he gets it."
The fourth quarter was tightly contested, but the Bulldogs never could overtake Charleston.
Three different times Sikeston made it a two-point game, with the last coming on a Terry Jamison drive to cut the lead to 46-44 with 4:12 left.
Tucker came up big down the stretch, however, as he made two free throws to push the lead back to four, and with 2:32 left, stole a pass and finished it off with a one-handed slam to lead 50-44.
Sikeston never got closer than six the rest of the way.
"I think they're a great team," Sikeston coach Gregg Holifield said. "Not only are they good, but they have great experience out there. Tucker's a three-year starter. (Ryan) Parham's a three-year starter. Experience is valuable and I thought it paid off for them tonight."
Parham, who burned the Bulldogs with a 23-point outburst in the first meeting, was kept quiet on Friday, scoring just four points with five assists and five turnovers.
However, Sikeston's standout guard tandem of Terry Jamison and Vashawn Ruffin were also kept in check, scoring a combined 16 points.
Jamison finished with eight assists, but also had four turnovers.
"They focused heavily on Terry and Vashawn," Holifield said. "I thought they really did a good job on them."
The Bulldogs started the game well, holding a 9-2 lead after a J.T. Jones basket with 3:17 left in the first period. Sikeston led 13-7 after one quarter of play.
"Sikeston is going to bring it," Farmer said. "They're going to bring it all the time and we have to respond to that. I was a little leery there for a while and then we woke up. I put some of the bench players in, they played well and we got back in the game. It kind of woke the starters up."
Charleston began to settle in to start the second quarter, scoring eight straight points to lead 15-13 after an Aaron Cassell layup.
The Bulldogs responded, eventually leading 22-19 with 1:25 left in the half, but Jamaul Gray banked in a 3-pointer from the top of the key and Michael Hull followed that up with a 3-pointer with just seconds left in the half to give the Bluejays a 25-22 lead.
Hull's shot broke the tie for the final time as Charleston never trailed again.
"That was a huge stretch," Farmer said. "We're the kind of team, you never know who's going to come out every night to hit the big shots. Some nights it's Cassell, some nights Mike Hull, sometimes Jamaul Gray, and then Greg and Ryan. It's a complete team. Hull hit the big 3 at the top of the key and that was huge."
Charleston took that momentum and rode it into the third quarter, extending the lead to 31-24 on back-to-back inside baskets by Krushon Scott.
"Our goal in the third quarter was to out-play Sikeston," Farmer said. "We feel that's their quarter, and if we can out-play them in the third quarter then we feel we have a good chance to win the game."
The Bluejays led by as much as eight, but five straight points by Caleb McGee, a 3-pointer and a pull-up jumper, sliced the lead to 38-35.
Tucker scored a basket moments later to push the Bluejay lead to 40-35 heading into the fourth quarter.
"They've got a really good player -- a Division I player in Tucker," Holifield said. "I thought at times in the second half he took over."
Sikeston's Keldon Warfield finished with a season-high 12 points with seven rebounds and two blocked shots.
"I thought Keldon played great," Holifield said. "He had a great focus about him and he was great on the boards. I thought he did a great job of leading us. It was a struggle defensively, and I thought we rebounded great. I thought that was a point of emphasis, we really worked hard on the boards."
Sikeston out-rebounded the Bluejays 27-23 in the game and they forced 19 Charleston turnovers, but the Bulldogs had 15 turnovers themselves and only shot 39 percent from the field, including 1-for-13 from 3-point range.
"That's what Charleston is built on," Tucker said. "We put all of our hard work and efforts on defense first."
The Bluejays shot 19-40 (48 percent) and made 4-14 of their 3-pointers.
"If you play as hard as these teams play the whole game, then it's got to take away from your legs some on your shot," Farmer said. "Our goal is to be up in your face on every shot. When you don't see that every night, then it's really tough."
Hull came off the bench and finished with 11 points, including three 3-pointers for the Bluejays. Gray followed up with nine points.
McGee and Ruffin each had 10 points for the Bulldogs. Jones had eight points and seven rebounds off the bench.
"We had moments, but we didn't hit shots when we needed to and they did, basically, and that was the difference in the game," Holifield said. "But we put ourselves in a position for a chance to win the game and we just couldn't get it done. They hit their free throws and did what they had to do to win it. There's no doubt we have to get better in areas and we had better hurry and do it quickly because it's not going to get any easier for us."
Sikeston was scheduled to play Imagine College Prep in the Cape Tiger Shootout on Saturday. The Bulldogs will travel to play undefeated and Class 4 state-ranked DeSoto tomorrow and will host Class 4, District 1 foe Fredericktown on Tuesday.
Sikeston's J.V. team fell to 7-2 on the season with a 48-44 loss to Charleston. The Bulldogs led 44-36 in the fourth quarter, but the Bluejays finished the game on a 12-0 run to pull out the victory.
Sikeston was led by Dantrell Brown's 11 points, six steals and five rebounds. Freshman Corbyn Blissett had eight points and six rebounds. Reese Porter had eight points and four steals.
Charleston was led by Shandor Webster's 15 points followed by Sumner Foster's 11.
Charleston 57, Sikeston 48
CHARLESTON (57) -- Greg Tucker 18, Michael Hull 11, Jamaul Gray 9, Aaron Cassell 7, Krushon Scott 6, Ryan Parham 4, Darrion Carter 2. FG 15, FT 15-20, F 18. (3-pointers: Hull 3, Gray 1. Fouled out: none).
SIKESTON (48) -- Keldon Warfield 12, Caleb McGee 10, Vashawn Ruffin 10, J.T. Jones 8, Terry Jamison 6, Markeith Bratcher 2. FG 18, FT 9-13, F 19. (3-pointers: McGee 1. Fouled out: McGee).
Charleston 48, Sikeston 44
CHARLESTON (48) -- Shandor Webster 15, Sumner Foster 11, Will Davis 9, Robert Bogan 5, Delfincko Bogan 4, Timontrell Horton 4. FG 16, FT 8-15, F 15. (3-pointers: Webster 1, Bogan 1. Fouled out: none).
SIKESTON (44) -- Dantrell Brown 11, Corbyn Blissett 8, Reese Porter 8, Jairius Ray 6, Marquise Parks 4, Peyton Boyd 4, Zach Jackson 3. FG 16, FT 12-20, F 19. (3-pointers: none. Fouled out: Porter).