(Photo by Chris Pobst, Staff)
COLUMBIA -- Playing against the team that knocked them out of state title contention a year ago, the Charleston Bluejays did not have revenge or payback on their minds.
The only thing on their minds was restoring their place as the top Class 3 team in the state.
The Bluejays did just that as they not only avenged last year's semifinal overtime loss to Hogan Prep Academy, but they captured their 11th state championship and the school's first since 2007 with a 79-73 victory in the Class 3 state championship game on Saturday night at Mizzou Arena in Columbia.
"We came up here to win it all," Charleston coach Danny Farmer said, now in his 15th season at the school. "We wanted to leave our guts out on the floor and I think we did that."
The Bluejays out-hustled and out-played the bigger, taller Kansas City school, breaking open a 35-34 halftime lead in the third quarter.
After a fast-paced first half, the game was called much tighter in the second half. Charleston made the necessary adjustments, but Hogan Prep did not, as they continually committed fouls, sending the Bluejays to the free throw line a state championship game record 47 times.
"They didn't really adjust to how the officials were calling the game so we just really wanted to attack the basket more and put it in the officials' hands," Charleston senior guard Greg Tucker said, who sank 15-of-19 free throws in the game. "I just put it in my head to attack the basket -- they've got to have some guys in foul trouble. That's just part of the game you have to adjust to, and we made the adjustments."
And while Charleston was routinely draining free throws, Hogan Prep was mounting serious foul problems on key players.
"Foul trouble just really, really put us in a bind," Hogan Prep coach Steve Stitzler said. "I couldn't keep starters on the floor in the first half. Three of them were out. You just got to hope and pray that guys will step up with our guys on the bench and we didn't do it."
Charleston (31-2) was able to build a 55-48 lead heading into the fourth quarter.
In the fourth, Charleston led by as much as 71-56. Hogan Prep (20-11) never got closer than the final margin.
"It was a different game than what they played the other day," Stitzler said, referring to Charleston's 58-56 semifinal victory over Mt. Vernon. "They had a chip on their shoulder from last year. I think that was probably it. Obviously it wasn't our best game. They played harder than we did and they got the victory. They just pretty much dominated us on any loose ball and rebounds. It seemed like everything went their way."
Early on things were going Hogan Prep's way as they led 15-13 after one quarter. They continued to lead by as much as five midway through the second quarter, but the Bluejays began to take advantage from the free throw line, sinking 14-of-20 in the first half and leading 35-34 at the half.
Tucker made 9-of-11 in the first half.
Charleston only shot 32 percent from the field in the first half, but were out-rebounding Hogan Prep and had fewer turnovers in addition to knocking down their free throws.
"We didn't mind getting into a free throw contest with them," Farmer said.
The Bluejays sank 30-of-47 from the free throw line, compared to Hogan Prep's 18-of-29.
Charleston out-rebounded the Rams 39-37 in the game. The Bluejays scorched the nets in the second half, shooting 68 percent, most coming inside the paint on drives to the basket and on fastbreak opportunities.
Charleston senior Jamaul Gray finished with 14 points and a game-high 12 rebounds. Junior Michael Hull had 14 points and junior Ryan Parham scored 13 points with nine assists and seven rebounds.
Tucker, a Northern Colorado signee, finished off his outstanding high school career with a game-high 27 points.
He is one of four seniors that will be graduating, along with Gray, Aaron Cassell and Krushon Scott, who was the hero of the Mt. Vernon game with the game-winning free throws with four seconds left.
"It's just an amazing feeling coming from all the hard work we put in through the season and over the years," Tucker said. "Especially to go out on top as a senior -- it's an amazing feeling to go out on top."
Greg Tucker 5-12 15-19 27, Jamaul Gray 6-9 2-5 14, Michael Hull 4-8 5-7 14, Ryan Parham 4-11 5-10 13, Darrion Carter 2-3 3-4 7, Sumner Foster 1-2 0-1 2, Krushon Scott 1-1 0-1 2, Aaron Cassell 0-4 0-2 0, Trey Watkins 0-0 0-0 0, Maurice Moore 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 23-50 30-47 79.
HOGAN PREP (73)
Maurice Mason 6-11 4-7 19, Broderick Newbill 6-8 1-2 14, Amaad Wainright 6-16 1-2 13, Anthony Ridley 4-9 4-10 13, Malik Collins 2-6 2-2 6, Dominick Williams 0-5 4-4 4, Jonathan Hawkins 1-1 0-0 2, Anthony Sherill 0-0 2-2 2, Rashid Ewing 0-2 0-0 0, Evan Hines 0-0 0-0 0, Perry Davis 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 25-59 18-29 73.
3-Point Goals -- Charleston 3-12 (Tucker 2-4, Hull 1-5, Cassell 0-2, Gray 0-1), Hogan Prep 5-17 (Mason 3-6, Ridley 1-2, B. Newbill 1-2, Collins 0-3, Williams 0-2, Wainright 0-1, Ewing 0-1). Fouled out -- Scott, Mason, B. Newbill. Rebounds -- Charleston 39 (Gray 12), Hogan Prep 37 (Wainright 8). Assists -- Charleston 12 (Parham 9), Hogan Prep 12 (Ridley 7). Total Fouls -- Charleston 24, Hogan Prep 34.