(Photo by David Jenkins, Staff)
CHARLESTON -- Charleston's Greg Tucker was king for the night.
Although, he doesn't seem to think so.
The senior poured in a game-high 36 points on a night where he was also crowned homecoming king against the visiting Kennett Indians on Friday leading the Bluejays to an 88-74 win.
But, the explosive 6-2 guard wasn't particularly pleased with his performance.
"It felt really good being chosen as the homecoming king and then have a game like that," Tucker said. "But, then again, I'm not really satisfied with how I played, especially in the first quarter. I don't think I played too well.
"I just kept playing my game and tried to turn it around."
Tucker, who will be heading to the University of Northern Colorado in the fall, finished 10 of 22 (45 percent) from the floor and knocked down two 3-pointers. What little accuracy he lacked from his outside shooting he more than made up for by getting to the free throw line.
Realizing at times his shot just wasn't going to fall, Tucker dipped and dashed his way to the rim on numerous occasions, drawing contact on nearly every trip. Tucker made the Indians pay for sending him to the line by burying 14 of 15 free throws.
"I feel like if I miss three in a row, I need to get to the free throw line," said Tucker. "That's definitely a big thing for me. If I start off missing a few shots I've got to get to the basket."
Tucker led Charleston's balanced offensive attack that featured five players who reached double figures.
"He has such a great body and is such a tough matchup," Kennett head coach Jim Vaughn said about Tucker. "He can get through a gap with explosiveness and can combat the contact because he's so strong. He does a great job of using his body and going at the right angles to draw fouls."
Senior Aaron Cassell scored 17 which included three 3-pointers, Ryan Parham and Michael Hull each added 10 while Jamaul Gray chipped in 11. Parham was also Charleston's lead facilitator with seven assists.
The Bluejays (19-1) had to contend with Kennett's height advantage at nearly every position as well. Although, facing bigger, taller teams hasn't been much of a problem for Charleston this season.
They tackle that situation with their athletic advantage and defensive prowess.
"We use our speed and quickness," Tucker said. "We play really fast and try to wear them down over the course of the game. That's really our strength."
Charleston head coach Danny Farmer uttered the same sentiment.
"We've been real fortunate in that area," Farmer said about combating size. "I think our pressure really wears teams down and that shortens them a little bit. Size hasn't bothered us all year."
Led by Gray's six points in the first quarter, the Bluejays took control early with a 16-11 lead after one. Following two free throws by Kennett's Antonio Primer with 6:33 left in the second, the Indians tied the game at 18 apiece.
Cassell, who was 7 of 13 from the floor and added four assists, answered with his second 3-pointer of the night to give the Bluejays a lead they would never relinquish.
Following Cassell's long ball, Charleston strung together an 8-2 run to give them a nine point cushion.
A minute later, Kennett's Kevonte Mitchell, who finished with a team-high 24 points, cut Charleston's lead to two with his fourth 3-pointer of the first half, 31-29.
Tucker fired back with a 3-pointer of his own to halt an Indian 9-2 run.
Although Kennett shot an impressive 53 percent (14 of 26) in the first half, including 57 percent from behind the arc, Charleston continued to hold their ground with a 42-37 lead at halftime.
"Both teams made open shots when they were there," Vaughn said.
Tucker began to personally distance his team from Kennett scoring 16 of the Bluejays' 23 points in the third quarter.
Holding a five point lead within the first few minutes of the third quarter, three consecutive times Tucker drew contact while aggressively chasing down the basket. He sank all six of his free throws to give Charleston a 52-41 lead.
"Greg can get to the rim, he can hit the outside shot and he can make free throws," Farmer said about Tucker. "When you can do all three of those it's hard to stop."
Although Kennett, who didn't help their own cause by committing eight turnovers in the quarter, cut the Bluejays' lead back down to six, Tucker answered yet again with a jumper and a 3-point play with a minute and a half left pushing Charleston's lead back up to 11.
"We had to pick it up at times," Farmer said. "I can't stress enough to the guys that teams are going to play great against us. I thought Kennett played a great game and they shot the ball well. I thought they would cool off, but every look that they got, it seemed like they put it in.
"But, we always can answer. We've been able to answer the call and we did that again tonight."
Tucker, who also had six steals and five rebounds, was a perfect 7 of 7 from the free throw line and sank his second 3-pointer with 23 seconds left to give the Bluejays a 65-50 advantage. Two quick baskets towards the end of the third quarter by Kennett left Charleston with a 65-54 lead heading into the final eight minutes.
"We've got to sure up the turnovers," Vaughn said. "A lot of those turnovers in the third quarter turned into layups. When you're as good as Charleston and can guard as well as they can, it makes things a lot easier for them. They create those types of turnovers and do things really well on the defensive end."
The Bluejays held off Kennett by being patient in the fourth quarter and taking their best available shot. Charleston was an efficient 63 percent (7 of 11) from the field in the final frame and went 5 of 6 from the charity stripe.
"When we started making our shots in the third and fourth quarters, that's when we really started taking off," said Tucker.
The Indians (12-6) shot 50 percent (7 of 14) and nailed 3 of 4 3-pointers to try and keep pace. Kennett pulled to within 11 points, 80-69, with 1:33 left in regulation, but Tucker, yet again, was perfect from the line nailing four straight free throws to ice the game.
As a team, Charleston shot 51 percent (31 of 60) and forced 24 Kennett turnovers.
KENNETT (74) -- Antavies Drake 10, Cameron Harper 5, Kevonte Mitchell 24, Adam Grantham 8, Antonio Primer 14, Jajuan Wallace 9, Dewayne Parker 4. FG 29 FT 8-13 F 20 (3-pointers: Drake 2, Harper 1, Mitchell 4, Wallace 1. Fouled out: none.)
CHARLESTON (88) -- Aaron Cassell 17, Ryan Parham 10, Michael Hull 10, Greg Tucker 36, Jamaul Gray 11, Krushon Scott 4. FG 31 FT 17-20 F 16 (3-pointers: Cassell 3, Hull 3, Tucker 2, Gray 1. Fouled out: none.)