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Notre Dame boys basketball team falls prey to Charleston's hot start
Charleston scored the game's first 10 points and posted a 70-59 victory
Falling behind by 17 points in the first quarter generally is not a recipe for success against any basketball team.
Digging that kind of hole against a squad as talented and cohesive as Charleston usually is a recipe for disaster.
That's the early deficit Notre Dame faced Tuesday night, and the result was fairly predictable.
Charleston turned back every charge by the host Bulldogs and rolled to a 70-59 victory.
"We dug ourselves a hole at the beginning of the game. You have to give them credit. They made shots," Notre Dame coach Kevin Roberts said. "From then on I was pleased with our effort, but it's hard to play catchup. You exert so much energy."
The Bluejays, the state's fourth-ranked Class 3 squad, improved to 7-1. The Bulldogs fell to 3-4.
"It's a real good win for us," Charleston all-state senior guard Greg Tucker said. "We knew they wouldn't give up in front of their home crowd."
Charleston silenced the big crowd at the start by scoring the first 10 points in a little more than three minutes.
Senior guard Aaron Cassell hit two quick 3-pointers to spark the Bluejays.
"Aaron really came out hot and got us going," Tucker said.
Cassell drilled another 3-pointer in the period, part of his 13-point first quarter.
Tucker's driving basket late in the period put Charleston up 22-5, and it was 22-7 entering the second quarter.
"They hit about every shot at the beginning," Notre Dame senior guard Nathan Meystedt said. "Playing catchup the whole game made it tough on us.
"We had to use so much energy coming back. We just couldn't pull it off."
The Bulldogs made things fairly tough on Charleston the rest of the night, but the Bluejays never relinquished the lead.
Notre Dame cut the deficit to 30-25 during the second quarter and later trailed 35-27.
Tucker then scored a layup and buried a 3-pointer in the final 50 seconds of the half to make it 40-27 at the break.
"That helped us get the momentum back," Tucker said.
The Bulldogs were far from finished despite falling behind by 16 points in the third quarter.
Notre Dame climbed within 52-43 after three and worked its crowd into a frenzy by slicing the deficit to four points twice in the final period.
But Charleston had an answer every time.
"It was a real good game," Charleston coach Danny Farmer said. "We came out hot and cooled down. We knew Notre Dame wouldn't quit. We knew it would be a game before it was over.
"They were trying to shut Greg down. Other guys stepped up."
Senior guard Jamaul Gray hit consecutive foul-line jumpers immediately after Notre Dame pulled within four points.
The second of Gray's 15-footers, with just less than three minutes left, made it 62-56. He followed with a steal and layup for a 64-56 lead.
"Cassell was hot early and Gray hit some big shots," Farmer said.
Notre Dame missed on its next possession and Tucker drove for a bucket and a 66-56 advantage with just less than two minutes remaining.
Notre Dame got back within seven, but Charleston junior reserve guard Trey Watkins iced the victory by hitting four consecutive free throws in the final minute.
Cassell finished with 21 points. He hit five 3-pointers. He scored 16 points in the first half.
Tucker, who has signed with Division I Northern Colorado, also scored 21 points while making three 3-pointers.
"He's going to get his," Farmer said about the versatile Tucker, who has deep range on his jumper and also is strong and quick getting to the basket. "He's a good ballplayer. He can do a lot of things."
Gray added 15 points for the Bluejays, who canned nine 3-pointers compared to just two for Notre Dame.
Meystedt paced the Bulldogs with 14 points.
Senior guard Demonte Farmer, who attended Charleston through his sophomore year, gave Notre Dame a lift with 12 second-half points off the bench to help fuel the comeback.
"He gave us a lot of energy," Meystedt said.
Senior guards Jonathan Lynch and Ryan Hale both added 10 points for Notre Dame.
The Bulldogs might not have to wait long for a rematch. Charleston is seeded first and Notre Dame second in next week's Southeast Missourian Christmas tournament at the Show Me Center.
"Hopefully we'll get to play them again, but we'll have to beat some good teams to get there," Meystedt said about a possible championship matchup.
CHARLESTON (70) -- Aaron Cassell 21, Michael Hull 2, Trey Watkins 4, Greg Tucker 21, Jamaul Gray 15, Krushon Scott 7. FG 26, FT 9-14, F 15. (3-pointers: Cassell 5, Tucker 3, Gray 1. Fouled out: Scott)
NOTRE DAME (59) -- Demonte Farmer 12, Jonathan Lynch 10, Nathan Meystedt 14, Joe Siebert 6, Cody Heisserer 7, Ryan Hale 10. FG 22, FT 13-17, F 17. (3-pointers: Farmer 1, Meystedt 1. Fouled out: Farmer)
JV -- Charleston won 46-41.