(Brent Shipman, Staff)
After a closer-than-expected 62-55 victory over fourth-seeded Caruthersville on Wednesday in the Class 3, District 1 Tournament, the Charleston Bluejays were out to show that they still reign supreme over area Class 3 schools.
Using Wednesday's sub-par performance as motivation, the top-seeded Bluejays came out with a vengeance on Friday and made second-seeded Kennett pay, defeating the Indians with an emphatic 73-42 victory at Bloomfield High School.
Charleston will play the winner of District 2 between Mountain View Liberty and Ava on Wednesday in a sectional matchup at the West Plains Civic Center at 7:45 p.m.
The victory marks Charleston's ninth district championship in the last 11 seasons and the school's area-leading 29th overall.
"We wanted to come out and prove we were a better team than we showed on Wednesday," Charleston coach Danny Farmer said. "This is the best we've played in a while. We played great defense tonight, we shot the ball great tonight. It was a total team effort. We just played hard. It's postseason time, so it's time for us play well."
The Bluejays (27-2) only trailed in the early stages of the game and were holding a 12-10 lead midway through the first quarter after Kennett's Antonio Primer scored on an offensive putback.
From that point on, it was all Bluejays.
Charleston ended the period on a 9-0 run to lead 23-12.
The Bluejays, like sharks smelling blood in the water, went for the kill in the second quarter, rattling off a 16-6 run, draining four 3-pointers in five trips down the floor to lead 39-18 with 3:39 left in the half.
With the way that the Bluejays were shooting, Kennett coach Jim Vaughan knew his team was in big trouble.
"They were knocking them down," Vaughan said. "When you knock a couple down it's momentum. They fed off of it. They don't do anything other than play the game and they play it hard. They move, they cut, they screen away, they drive at you when they have a gap. They just play ball and they were especially good at it tonight."
Charleston continued the onslaught all the way until the halftime buzzer, at which point they held a 48-22 lead, essentially making the second half a formality.
"It really kind of got to us Wednesday," Farmer said. "We didn't like that performance. So we were mad. We came out viciously mad tonight."
The Bluejays were able to extend their lead to 65-30 on a Darrion Carter jumper with two minutes left in the third quarter. Farmer emptied his bench and put the subs in with 1:47 left in the period.
Charleston led 67-35 at the end of three. The mercy clock ran for most of the fourth quarter to close out the game.
"Charleston was on a mission tonight and weren't up to combat that mission," Vaughan said.
Doing most of the damage for the Bluejays was junior guard Michael Hull, leading all scorers with 22 points, including four 3-pointers.
"Mike's been playing well -- you notice he was in the starting lineup tonight," Farmer said. "He's been stepping it up. We try to push each other. The ones playing well are the ones that I'll start. That keeps us motivated."
All-state guard Greg Tucker followed up with 12 points, all in the first half. He also had eight assists and three steals.
Perhaps the most impressive aspect of Charleston's convincing victory was that it was accomplished with junior standout Ryan Parham, who battled foul trouble all night, was held scoreless.
"That says a lot about our depth," Farmer said. "We have a lot of depth. We are about 10 deep and they can all play."
Carter, who also got the start on Friday, finished with eight points and a pair of blocked shots.
"He's blocking shots and rebounding," Farmer said of Carter. "Now we have two post men. Krush (Krushon Scott) can play half the time now and we've been working on that. At this time of the season we wanted him to be ready, and he's ready now."
Charleston had 18 assists as a team and only five turnovers.
They grabbed 30 rebounds, including 15 on the offensive end and had 15 steals as a team.
The Bluejays were 7-for-20 (35 percent) from 3-point range and were 30-64 (47 percent) overall from the field.
But one of the more telling stories of the game was something that doesn't necessarily show up in the stat sheet -- loose balls. Charleston got them. Kennett didn't.
"You can't just assume that because you get a hand out there that you're going to gather that ball," Vaughan said. "They're going to keep going after it, even if they get out of position because they're going to recover too. I gotta say they won probably 90 percent of those, and when you're playing a team that is already playing well and they get that many 50-50 balls, it makes it that much of a longer night on you."
Kennett (19-9) was led by sophomore Kevonte Mitchell with 17 points. Antonio Primer followed up with 11 points.
"Kennett had a great year and coach Vaughan did a super job," Farmer said. "They're overachievers. I bet a lot of people thought they shouldn't have been in this championship game. My hat goes off to Kennett. They beat a good Doniphan team. They beat a good Caruthersville team earlier. We were prepared for this team. We didn't take them lightly."
The Indians, which won its first district championship in 36 years three seasons ago, have now reached three straight district finals, but have come up short the past two seasons to the Bluejays.
"We're extremely proud to reach the finals," Vaughan said. "We graduated nine kids last year and I don't think many people gave us a chance coming into this season about being in this spot this year. We're proud of the fact that we're here, but we've got to get to a point that where we're not satisfied. We want to change that next year with what we do at the end of the season."
Charleston's district dominance continues, but now Farmer will try to get his team to focus on Wednesday's sectional game.
"This is great," Farmer said. "We play in one of the toughest districts around. Every night we have to be ready to play. But the focus now is to take it one at a time. We're going to take a couple days off and get ready for that Wednesday game, whoever comes out of that District 2. We'll prepare for them and try to be ready to take care of business."
KENNETT (42) -- Kevonte Mitchell 17, Antonio Primer 11, Jajuan Wallace 4, Antavies Drake 3, Cameron Harper 3, Daniel Lockhert 2, Adam Grantham 1, Dewayne Parker 1. FG 10, FT 16-23, F 14. (3-pointers: Mitchell 1, Drake 1. Fouled out: none).
CHARLESTON (73) -- Michael Hull 22, Greg Tucker 12, Darrion Carter 8, Aaron Cassell 7, Krushon Scott 6, Jamaul Gray 6, Trey Watkins 4, Will Davis 4, Maurice Moore 2, Delfincko Bogan 2. FG 23, FT 6-15, F 21. (3-pointers: Hull 4, Tucker 2, Cassell 1. Fouled out: none).