Scott County Central's Drew Thomas goes to the basket past Charleston defender Antonio Riggens on Monday during the semifinals in the Southeast Missourian Christmas Tournament at the Show Me Center. For more photos from the tournament, check online at semoball.com.
But Thomas and the Braves had no trouble beating the Bluejays on Monday night.
Thomas, who is friendly with many members of the Charleston team after playing AAU basketball with them this past summer, scored 24 points before resting on the bench with the other Braves starters for most of the fourth quarter.
No. 1 Scott County earned its third straight rout, beating No. 4 Charleston 87-55 at the Show Me Center to advance to play Notre Dame in today's 7:30 p.m. championship game.
The Braves jumped out to a 15-0 lead in the first 4 minute, 3 seconds of the contest. Charleston never came within 11 points the rest of the contest.
Braves sophomore Otto Porter blocks Donald Dixon from behind Monday.
"I don't think it's been easy," Thomas said. "We've just worked our way to the top."
Thomas is averaging 29.6 points per game in the tournament so far.
"The big thing is I'll do whatever it takes to win this tournament," Thomas said. "If I've got to score 38 a game to do it, I guess I can do it."
Charleston coach Danny Farmer said Scott County probably is the best team his boys have played.
Donald Dixon, left, Desmin Williams, and Demarques McKeller watch a free throw head to the rim Monday evening, December 29, 2008, in the Southeast Missourian Christmas Tournament at the Show Me Center.
Thomas' cousin, 6-foot-7 sophomore Otto Porter, scored 19 points, including nine in the first quarter. Thomas said he always is challenging Porter to play better. It seems to be working.
Ironically, Porter's first start as a varsity basketball player his freshman year came in the 2007 Southeast Missourian Christmas Tournament against Notre Dame.
Scott County played Notre Dame in last year's quarterfinals, with the Bulldogs winning.
Porter is ready to play the Bulldogs again. He said he saw Notre Dame play against Sikeston earlier this year, and expects tonight's game to be a good one.
"I want to get back at them for last year," Porter said. "They can shoot the 3s and pass the ball around real fast."
Porter did a nice job of playing aggressive defense against Charleston, which resulted in some quick transition baskets for his team.
"I just try to stay on the boards as much as possible and help the team make plays on fast breaks to get it out quick," Porter said.
Scott County led Charleston 30-12 after the first quarter and 57-32 at halftime.
In his typical style of coaching, Ronnie Cookson was on his feet yelling at his players even when they were ahead 25 or more points. He also emphasized to his players after the game that they must correct a number of mistakes they are making.
When asked about Thomas' performance, Cookson said the senior made some errors.
"He made quite a few mistakes tonight that he's going to have to correct," Cookson said. "Especially when there were 3 seconds left on the clock and [he] shoots a 60 footer. We wasn't too fond of that. Anyway, he will. He's learning. This is his first year he's played out at the guard. So he's got some learning to do yet. But he's doing a good job."
Scott County had five players in double figures for scoring. Besides Thomas and Porter, Bobby Hatchett netted 16 points, Randy Timmons had 13 and Desmin Williams had 11.
Hatchett had a powerful dunk on the 15-0 run in the first quarter that got the crowd energized.
Scott County will try to capture its fifth Christmas Tournament title in school history. And Cookson expects a tough game against Notre Dame tonight.
"We're going to have to play one of our better games that we've ever played or we ever will play," Cookson said. "Just all around they are so deep. They can go deep and they've got some size and they've got some shooters. Just everything. Notre Dame has a heck of a ballclub."
@z_agate_no tab_no indnt_bld ld:Charleston (55) -- Antonio Riggens 12, Akeem Sharp 6, Terrell Smith 2, Gregory Tucker 4, Claude Armstrong 1, Deonte Jones 12, Demarques McKeller 7, Donald Dixon 11. FG 22, FT 5-11, F 18. (3-pointers: Riggens 2, Sharp 2, Jones 2. Fouled out: None)
Scott County Central (87) -- Bobby Hatchett 16, Nick Johnson 2, Desmin Williams 11, Drew Thomas 24, Randy Timmons 13, Chris Blissett 2, Otto Porter 19. FG 33, FT 18-24, F 10. (3-pointers: Thomas 1, R. Timmons 2. Fouled out: None)