(Photo by Chris Pobst, Staff)
CHARLESTON -- The Scott County Central Braves knew just what they had to do in order to give themselves a chance at toppling the mighty Charleston Bluejays.
They looked up to the challenge of doing just that -- for a half.
The Braves trailed Charleston by just one point at halftime but it all took a turn for the worse as the Bluejays showed just why they are the top-ranked team in the latest Missouri Class 3 state poll on Friday handing the Braves a 99-86 defeat.
"Any team can play with you on any given night," Charleston head coach Danny Farmer said. "I knew Scott Central was going to come in and give us a good game. We have a target on our back, so they were going to bring their best game.
"We're going to have to respond to that and we did."
Although Charleston (14-1) nailed its first three 3-pointers and shot a sizzling 72 percent (8 of 11) in the first quarter, the Braves matched their high-octane shooting with four 3-pointers of their own.
As a team, Charleston hit 10 3-pointers on the night and shot 59 percent (36 of 61) from the field. The Braves tried matching that with a 31 of 67 performance (46 percent) from the floor.
"It was just effort," Scott Central head coach Kenyon Wright said. "The effort was all-around there in the first half."
Scott Central led 20-9 after their highest leading scorer, Dominique Porter, who poured in 36 points and grabbed a team-leading nine rebounds, drained his second consecutive 3-pointer with just under three minutes to play.
"They came out strong," Charleston's Aaron Cassell said, who led the Bluejays with 23 points. "We wasn't all together at first but we came back in the second half and did what we had to do."
The Braves also looked to have a little extra in the tank seeing as they wanted nothing more than to knock off the area's best team on their home court.
"We didn't want them to come out Notre Dame did against us and let them jump out to a big lead," Scott Central junior Jaylen Porter said, referring to their semifinal loss to Notre Dame during the Southeast Missourian Christmas Tournament. "We had to match their intensity. We came together and said to ourselves that we were going to play them all out."
Despite being down by 11 points, Charleston didn't fold to the early adversity. Scott Central brought on a storm that was eventually weathered by a 10-2 Bluejay run to close the quarter.
Charleston didn't expect anything less from the Braves, as they won't from any other opponent during the rest of the season.
"I seen a lot of heart from them," said Cassell. "They played hard and we wasn't really expecting that much. But, everybody is going to try and play that much more harder against us."
Down 22-19 to start the second quarter, Charleston eventually retook the lead with 2: 58 left in the half after Michael Hull, who scored 17 points, knocked down one of his three 3-pointers to give the Bluejays a 37-34 advantage.
A late bucket by Scott Central sophomore Larandis Banks, who finished with 22 points, cut Charleston's lead to one as the Bluejays went into halftime up 41-40.
"We got open looks," Wright said." We got shots out of our offense and we didn't just jack it up there. When we run our offense and are relaxed, we're able to knock those down. That's one thing we did well against Charleston. We executed our offense."
As the Bluejays continued their hot-shooting ways, Scott Central fell by the wayside from the floor.
Charleston opened the third quarter with a 24-9 run, which included eight points from Hull. The Bluejays torched the nets on 12 of 18 (66 percent) shooting in the third while the Braves fell to 35 percent (5 of 14).
Charleston outscored the visiting Braves 37-15 while Greg Tucker scored 11 of his 21 points in the third frame.
"They were getting a few more open looks than we were giving them earlier," Jaylen Porter said. "They have consistent shooters so they started knocking them down. We didn't really get out there to them."
Scott Central was looking up at a 78-55 deficit heading into the fourth quarter. Charleston went up by as many as 25 points in the same frame, which was their biggest lead of the night.
"We're a real good shooting team," Cassell said. "We work on our shots all the time. Once we get our momentum, it's good."
Using a 21-9 run to close out the night, the Braves chopped their deficit in half bringing it to their losing margin of 13 points.
LaMarcus Steward added 12 points and nine assists for Scott Central as the Braves fell to 8-5 on the season.
SCOTT CENTRAL (86) -- Larandis Banks 22, Jaylen Porter 10, Chris Brown 2, Tyler Masters 2, Antonio Johnson 2, Dominique Porter 36, LaMarcus Steward 12. FG 31 FT 20-21 F 22 (3-pointers: D. Porter 2, Banks 2, J. Porter 1. Fouled out: Johnson.)
CHARLESTON (99) -- Aaron Cassell 23, Ryan Parham 13, Michael Hull 17, Trey Watkins 3, Greg Tucker 21, Jamaul Gray 13, Krushon Scott 7, Darrion Carter 2. FG 36 FT 16-27 F 18 (3-pointers: Cassell 4, Hull 3, Tucker 2, Gray 1. Fouled out: none.)