(Photo by Chris Pobst, Staff)
CAPE GIRARDEAU -- Everyone knew what was coming.
The Charleston Bluejays, the tournament's No. 1 seed, met the expectations and delivered like an undeniable favorite should.
Charleston's second title in as many years capped a commanding rule over this year's field at the 2012 seMissourian Christmas Tournament with a 62-42 win over Cape Central Sunday at the Show Me Center in Cape Girardeau.
"I feel like they kind of put pressure on us by trying to beat Charleston -- by putting the bullseye on us," Charleston senior Michael Hull said. "I feel like, when the pressure's on, we play a lot better. We came as one as a team and overcame it."
The Bluejays, currently ranked third by the MBCA/MoSports.com poll and the defending Class 3 state champions, won their four games by an average of 37 points. Their closest game was an 18-point win over Jackson in the semifinals and their biggest was an 83-point shellacking of Delta in the first round.
No matter the point margin, winning never gets old according to Charleston head coach Danny Farmer.
"We responded," he said about his team expecting to win this year's tournament. "Defending champions, expected to win, No. 1 seed -- we couldn't have done it any better. Our closest game was 18 points. I thought we did everything we were supposed to do."
The Bluejays (11-1) completed half of their Christmas journey without the services of all-state point guard Ryan Parham.
Parham, who missed the tournament's first two games, has been nursing a high ankle sprain since Dec. 17 as well as various other foot and heel problems accumulated this season.
Despite his injury woes, Parham finished with nine points, seven rebounds, six assists and two steals.
"We had people step up," Hull said about Parham's absence. "Trey Watkins stepped up and Sumner (Foster) made good plays."
Hull led the Bluejays with 15 points on 5 of 13 shooting. Foster went 5 of 7 from the field for 14 points while adding two blocks and four rebounds while Darrion Carter added 11 points.
"We always stress being a team, what a team is all about," said Farmer. "When someone else is out, somebody's got to step up. Ryan came in at the right time and got better each game."
Needing to knock off the tournament's No. 2 seed to complete their title chase, Charleston ran into a slight hitch in the beginning.
Due to five straight points by Cape Central's Garan Evans, the Tigers jumped out to a 7-1 advantage to start the game and held a five-point lead (15-10) later in the first quarter.
The lead didn't hold long for the young Tiger squad as Charleston's bullying defensive pressure quickly coaxed Cape Central turnovers which led to easy Bluejay buckets.
"I felt like we kind of slacked in the first half," Hull said. "But, we came back with more intensity in the second half. It was a great win for our team."
By the end of the first frame, Charleston led 16-15. And thanks to a 7-0 run in the second, the Bluejays were well on their way to a double digit lead throughout the rest of the game. Charleston outscored the Tigers 15-5 in the second holding a 31-20 lead at halftime.
During the second half, Charleston's lead remained steadily around 10 points until they slowly pulled ahead by 20 in the fourth.
"I thought we battled for the majority of the game," Cape Central head coach Drew Church said. "I think they picked up the intensity in the second half. Our guys kind of shied away from that.
"(Charleston's) a good team. They really get out and guard you. But some of our younger guys kind of backed away from some of the things that they usually do."
The Bluejays outscored Cape Central 18-8 in the final quarter to cruise to their 17th Christmas tournament title -- the most by any school in the 68-year history of the tournament.
"Anything else would have been a letdown," Farmer said. "When you're in that position the pressure is on you. But we did respond."
Both Hull and Trey Watkins made the all-tournament team selected by members of the media from all 16 teams who competed in the tournament.
CAPE CENTRAL (42) -- Al Young 3, Garan Evans 17, Jamal Cox 10, Mikey Jones 6, Andre Statam 4, Marcus Dixon 2. FG 17 FT 6-18 F 15. (3-pointers: Evans 2. Fouled out: None.)
CHARLESTON (69) -- Delfincko Bogan 2, Robert Bogan 4, Ryan Parham 9, Michael Hull 15, Sumner Foster 14, Shandor Webster 7, Darrion Carter 11. FG 24 FT 12-16 F 15. (3-pointers: Hull 1, Foster 1. Fouled out: None.)