The Rams were riding momentum and confidence and had shut down the Bluejays' Division I-bound standout Greg Tucker.
Then Charleston showed why it earned the No. 1 seed.
Tucker and the Bluejays fought off an impressive effort by the Rams and held on for a wild 83-76 quarterfinal win in the Southeast Missourian Christmas tournament.
Tucker, who was silenced for the majority of the game, pumped in 14 of his 21 points in the fourth quarter to lead the charge for Charleston.
"That's the way he is," Charleston coach Danny Farmer said. "When the game is on the line, Greg plays his best. In his mind, he refuses to lose. Sometimes I think he's coasting and I'm trying to get him fired up and say, 'Hey we don't need to coast,' and he kind of is like, 'Coach I got this.' He doesn't say it, but I think that's what's going on in his mind. But he can respond in big games. He's a big-time player and a big-game player."
The Rams executed a brilliant game plan.
Scott City used a 1-3-1 defense to stifle Charleston, and mainly Tucker, for the majority of the opening three quarters.
"Against a team like that, you've got to try something," Scott City coach Mark Dannenmueller said. "The 13 defense is our pretty good defense. We just tried to stay with Tucker throughout it. We ran a little bit last night against Chaffee and tried to stay with [Alex] Crowe, and we said we're going to try it and see if it worked, and it seemed to work."
The defense led to Charleston shooting just 1 of 8 from beyond the arc in the opening half.
"They played like a 1-3-1 and kind of shaded a man out to my side a little more and it kept us from doing anything," Tucker said. "Plus we didn't really force them to play at our tempo. We slowed it down and played at their tempo."
Charleston jumped to a 7-0 lead on two baskets by Krushon Scott and a trey by Tucker, but the Rams quickly found themselves.
Scott City managed to trail just 15-8 after one quarter.
The Rams came up with two huge baskets trailing 30-22 with just less than a minute left in the half.
Ryan Brock hit a layup and Zach Cotner added a basket with 8 seconds remaining to make it 30-26 at the half.
"I told the kids tonight if you don't play with confidence against a team like Charleston, you're going to be down by 15 or 20 quick," Dannenmueller said. "After the first quarter, I think we realized we can play. And at halftime we realized it, and I told the kids at half if you can step up and hit some shots, we're going to be good. We got some open looks."
The Rams held Tucker in check in the opening half.
The senior guard managed just seven points on 3-of-8 shooting.
Scott City looked poised for an upset in the third quarter.
The Rams tied it on back-to-back buckets by Jonathan McFall and Cotner less than two minutes into the quarter.
Then senior guard Landon Robert buried a 3-pointer from the corner to give the Rams their first lead at 33-30.
The Bluejays responded with a trey from the top of the key, but Jessie Sanders made two free throws and Robert buried another 3 to stretch the lead to 38-33 with just more than five minutes to play in the third.
Charleston managed just one basket over the first three minutes of the second half.
"We didn't knock down shots," Farmer said. "Those long shots aren't going to fall all the time. We're a good shooting team, but that's one of my biggest fears -- we're not knocking shots down and we're going to have to do other things."
Charleston finally awoke minutes later.
Junior Aaron Cassell led the comeback.
The 5-foot-7 guard tallied 11 of his game-high 22 points in the third.
The shifty guard came up with several key steals that turned the tide in Charleston's favor.
"He caused some trouble out there on defense and caused Scott City to have to work a little harder," Farmer said about Cassell. "He's an excellent shooter and he knocked down some big shots for us."
Cassell rattled off 11 consecutive points for Charleston, including a four-point play to catapult his team to a 47-45 lead it never relinquished.
"We were struggling a little bit," Cassell said. "They were playing good and we were having tough times. We weren't all together and we weren't making shots. Me and Tucker talked about we're going to have to drive a little bit more because the outside shots weren't going in. So we started to drive more, get fouls called and made our free throws."
Tucker and Cassell combined with a better defensive effort helped Charleston stay in front in the fourth.
"I thought we put the pressure on Scott City and made them work a little bit," Farmer said. "After awhile, they were a little bit inconsistent in their shooting. They had to work for a shot."
The Bluejays appeared to be in control when they took a 66-56 lead with five minutes to play, but Scott City chipped away.
Cotner scored six of his team's next 12 points to help cut the lead to 72-68 with 1 minute, 23 seconds to play.
But the Bluejays never became rattled, led by Tucker's 14 points in the final frame.
"In the fourth quarter, I was just being a little more aggressive," Tucker said. "I was just trying to get to the basket and get to the line a little more."
SCOTT CITY (76) -- Landon Robert 12, Jesse Sanders 18, Tyler Adams 2, Jonathan McFall 4, Zach Cotner 22, Ryan Fortner 4, Ryan Brock 14. FG 28. FT 18-21. F 19. (3-pointers: Robert 2. Fouled out: Robert, Sanders)
CHARLESTON (83) -- Aaron Cassell 22, Ryan Parham 5, Michael Hull 2, Greg Tucker 21, Jamaul Gray 15, Krushon Scott 14, Darrion Carter 4. FG 30. FT 19-28. F 16. (3-pointers: Cassell 1, Tucker 2, Gray 1. Fouled out: none)