(Photo by Brent Shipman, Staff)
BENTON -- To say the Charleston Bluejays have been riding a hot streak is putting it mildly.
Since a 58-50 loss to West Memphis, Ark., on Nov. 26 in the Riverbend Classic, Charleston hasn't tasted defeat, winning their 20th-straight game Tuesday night, blasting Kelly 83-34.
"It feels good," Charleston coach Danny Farmer said of his team's winning streak. "But that's another target on your back and that's something else you have to protect.
"We have all kinds of targets on our backs so we can't slip up. We just have to come out serious all the time."
Charleston wasted no time marching to their 20th-straight win, racing out to a 20-13 first quarter lead, thanks in part to Greg Tucker's 7 points. Aaron Cassell added 6 in the quarter as the Bluejays closed out the frame on a 12-4 run.
Picking up steam, Charleston scored 12 of the first 14 points in the second quarter as a bucket by Sumner Foster put the Bluejays up 32-17 with 3:45 before the break.
After a pair of quick baskets by Kelly broke the Hawks' scoring drought, Charleston ended the half on an 8-0 run, fueled by Darrion Carter, who scored in the paint before adding a pair of free throws.
Carter scored his final four points of the night in the first few minutes of the third as the Bluejays took a 47-19 advantage with 1:30 left to go in the first half.
A 6-0 Kelly (3-15) rally followed before another seven points from Tucker in the final four minutes helped Charleston (21-1) pull away by 32, at 61-29, entering the fourth.
"We did underestimate them a little bit coming out of the gate," Tucker said. "Otherwise in the second half we just came out with the defensive intensity like usual."
Ensuring the turbo clock, Charleston outscored the Hawks 22-5 in the final frame. They were led by Cassell, who scored 12 of his game-high 20 points in the final eight minutes of the game.
After an admittedly slow start to the game by his squad, Farmer was pleased to see his boys respond coming out of the half to outscore Kelly 43-15.
"We came back out in the second half and we were a little bit concerned about the start," Farmer said. "We're trying to teach them to get up for every game. You can't look at your opponent and not play hard.
"At this time in the season you have to take everybody serious."
For his game-high 20 points, Cassell shot 9 of 16 from the floor on the night, while going 7 of 9 inside the arc. He also had five steals and two assists.
Hitting on five of his 10 shots, Tucker's 16 points all came in the first three quarters as he also contributed eight steals and three rebounds.
Foster and Parham added eight points apiece to the Bluejays cause.
As a team Charleston went 34 of 69 (49 percent) overall and 30 of 49 (61.2 percent) from 2-point range.
For the Hawks, Aaron Grainger scored a team-high 11 points with Brent Forck and Gaven Ray finishing the game with 6 points each.
Kelly's final lead of the game midway through the first quarter as a basket by Forck put the Hawks up 9-8. Back-to-back buckets by Carter and Parham for the Bluejays soon after, however, allowed Charleston to retake the lead and the momentum.
"We kept it close for about a quarter and a half," said Kelly coach Josh Eftink. Then they went on a little run to end the second half to get up 21 at halftime.
"Still, I was proud of the way the boys played. They played well against a team that plays extremely physical. We're showing improvements so I'm proud of that."
KELLY (34) -- Gaven Ray 6, Aaron Grainger 11, Brent Forck 6, Jeff Gates 4, Ian Householder 5, Gabe Felter 2. FG 16, FT 1-5, F 16. (3-pointers: Grainger 1. Fouled out: none.)
CHARLESTON (83) -- Aaron Cassell 20, Ryan Parham 8, Michael Hull 4, Trey Watkins 4, Greg Tucker 16, Jamaul Gray 6, Maurice Moore 5, Sumner Foster 8, Krushon Scott 2, Darrion Carter 10. FG 34, FT 11-18, F 8. (3-pointers: Cassell 2, Tucker 1, Moore 1. Fouled out: none.)