(Photo by Chris Pobst, Staff)
SIKESTON -- To say the Charleston Bluejays controlled the second half of their SEMO Conference semifinal game against Notre Dame would be an understatement.
After allowing the Bulldogs to hang within nine points heading into halftime, the Bluejays flat out dominated the third quarter when Notre Dame was held to only one basket through nearly seven minutes of play.
By the time the fourth quarter rolled around, Charleston built a 32-point lead they wouldn't relinquish as the defending conference champs rolled to a 69-35 win to set up a championship game rematch with the Sikeston Bulldogs.
"We turned it over right there at the beginning of the half at least five times in a row," Charleston head coach Danny farmer said of the second half. "We should have had that lead a lot earlier. But we made a few adjustments. We want to double them up on defense every once in a while. Just show a different look like we're going to trap or something like that."
Charleston started to build on their 35-26 halftime lead when Michael Hull connected on a jumper on the Bluejays' first possession of the third quarter.
Hull's shot started a 10-point run that saw Charleston pull away 45-28 just over three minutes into the frame.
Notre Dame put in a bucket with 4:26 remaining in the third, their first of the half, but soon fell victim to another Bluejay run.
Both Hull and Delfinko Bogan kicked in a 3-pointer to highlight an 11-point, two minute surge that pushed the Bluejays ahead 56-28 with 2:26 left in the quarter.
The Bulldogs scored one last bucket from the paint before Charleston reeled off three-straight baskets in the final 48 seconds to take a 62-30 advantage into the fourth.
By outscoring the Bulldogs 7-5 in the fourth, the Bluejays ensured a turbo-clocked final eight minutes of the game.
"Coach (Farmer) gave us a motivational speech at halftime about them fouling and matching their toughness," Bluejays' senior Ryan Parham said. "So I feel like we came out and matched their toughness."
Parham was one of three Charleston players to post double-digit scoring totals, finishing with 11 points, five assists and three steals. Sumner Foster also had 11 points on the contest to go along with four rebounds, two steals and an assist.
Charleston's leading scorer was Hull, who finished with a game-high 17 points, three rebounds and two assists. Hull shot 6 of 12 on the night and went 3 of 6 from 3-point range.
As a team, Charleston shot 25 of 49 (51 percent) from the field and 7 of 13 (54 percent) from behind the arc.
"We started off kind of slow in the first half, but in the second half we picked it up," Hull said. "In the third quarter we started playing more defense and started playing harder."
Leading Notre Dame's effort was Jordan Barber with 10 points. Tanner Shively and Quinn Poythress had seven and five points respectively.
The Bulldogs fell behind by as many as 11 points in the second quarter, but closed back to within three points with an 8-1 run. They still trailed by three with 34 seconds left in the half only to see a pair of 3-pointers from Hull and Parham push the Bluejays back out by nine.
"We weren't scoring in the first half," Farmer said. "The defense was there we just we're scoring. We kind of turned it around in the second half."
With the win, the top-seeded Bluejays set up a rematch of last year's finals against second-seeded Sikeston.
Charleston will hope for a similar outcome as they beat the Bulldogs 75-71 last season for their first conference title since 2007 while also snapping a three-year Sikeston winning streak.
The championship game will kick off tonight at 8:30 p.m. at the Sikeston Field House.
NOTRE DAME (35) -- Cody DeBrock 3, Quinn Poythress 5, Patrick Williamson 2, Dalton Welch 3, Trenton Schumer 2, 2, Grant Ressel 3, Jordan Barber 10, Tanner Shively 7. FG 14, FT 3-3, F 19. (3-pointers: DeBrock 1, Poythress 1, Welch 1, Ressel 1. Fouled out: none.)
CHARLESTON (69) -- Delfinko Bogan 5, Robert Bogan 3, Ryan Parham 11, Michael Hull 17, Trey Watkins 2, Darrion Henderson 2, Sumner Foster 11, Shandor Webster 7, Darrion Carter 9, Michael Kellum 2. FG 25 FT 12-21 F 12. (3-pointers: Parham 2, Hull 3, Webster 1. Fouled out: none.)
Up by eight points at halftime, the New Madrid County Central Eagles could not hold on for a win as the Poplar Bluff Mules came back for a 61-59 upset during the consolation semifinals of the SEMO Conference Tournament Thursday.
With the game tied at 57-all, Poplar Bluff's Stacy Gipson tipped in a go-ahead basket with 30 second to go.
NMCC's Willie Jimerson answered with two free throws 12 seconds later to tie it again at 59. The Mules fed Gipson, a 6-6 junior, once again and he delivered with a runner as the clock hit six seconds for the game winner.
"The effort is there. We're just not finishing right now," NMCC head coach Travis Day said. "We have to get to the drawing board and see what's going on and why we're not finishing games right now."
POPLAR BLUFF (61) -- Malik Metcalf 2, Joseph Eyler 10, Lucas Tibbs 8, Ryan Brittingham 3, Stacy Gipson 20, Brandon Stuckenschneider 2, Chris Stocks 7, Lance Gray 9. FG 20, FT 17-25, F 17. (3-pointers: Eyler 1, Brittingham 1, Stocks Gray 1. Fouled out: none.)
NMCC (59) -- Willie Jimerson 20, Armondo Thatch 8, Mikeal Walker 2, JaShawn McDaniel 2, TJ Clark 6, Asten Newsom 4, Devon Harrell 2, Darrin McGloson 15. FG 23, FT 12-20, F 20. (3-pointers: Jimmerson 1. Fouled out: none.)