Bluejays definitely looked like a team on a mission

Sunday, January 5, 2003

The coaches whose teams played in the seMissourian Christmas Basketball Tournament evidently knew what they were doing when they made Charleston a unanimous No. 1 seed.

Charleston didn't simply win its record 15th tournament championship -- and second in a row -- the Bluejays totally decimated the field.

Last season, the Bluejays felt like they had something to prove as they had failed to reach the finals the previous two years despite being seeded first. And Charleston made amends by capturing the title.

The Bluejays evidently believed they had something to prove once again this year -- according to coach Danny Farmer they felt snubbed that they weren't included in the most recent state poll -- and they definitely played like a team on a mission.

In their four games at the Show Me Center, the Bluejays romped by an average of 27.3 points. And their 66-52 championship victory over a solid Notre Dame team was deceiving. Charleston led by well over 20 points most of the way before sending in its reserves late.

Charleston always fields a strong team but the Bluejays appear to be several notches above what they've been in recent years. It'll be interesting to see how far they go in the playoffs.

And here are a few more thoughts on the 58th annual tournament:

Notre Dame might have fallen flat in the title contest, but the Bulldogs had quite a tournament run and are definitely a team to watch the rest of the season.

Fifth-place winner Central, fielding a young team, is probably a year away from making some serious noise, but the Tigers sure have come a long way. With eight victories, they've already doubled their win total from last season, their first under coach Derek McCord.

Scott City, which after a first-round win lost close games to Notre Dame and Jackson, looks like one of the area's most improved teams from last season. It's nice to see Kerry Thompson -- who like most of the area's coaches is a really good guy -- having success with the Rams after he took some shots last year in a difficult situation after replacing Scott City coaching legend McCord.

Bell City and Oran have developed one of the top small-school rivalries around. After Bell City's win in the third-place game, the teams have split their two meetings this season. They're scheduled to play once more and could very well meet in the district finals for the second straight time.

Woodland, in its first year being coached by my old buddy Ted Hahn, had an impressive showing as the Cardinals bounced back from a first-round loss to win the consolation title.

Congratulations to Advance coach Jim Hall. Even though his sickness-plagued squad lost to Woodland in the consolation final, he picked up his 500th career win in the tournament. That's a lot of victories.

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  • One more high school basketball note, girls' style:

    Kudos to Delta coach Randy White, who recently notched his 300th career victory. He's one of the truly nice guys among area coaches and does quite a job on the sidelines.

    It's still mind-boggling that Scott City ran White off a few years ago after he had all kinds of success leading the Rams.

    The men's basketball program at Ohio Valley Conference member Tennessee State is in quite a bit of turmoil after last Saturday's announcement that coach Nolan Richardson III was placed on indefinite suspension by athletics director Teresa Phillips due to an undisclosed violation of university policy.

    Assistant coach Hosea Lewis is serving as acting coach until further notice.

    According to media reports, it is unclear whether the suspension is related to an ongoing NCAA investigation into alleged rules infractions by Richardson and his staff -- but it's highly likely that it is.

    Among the allegations against Richardson and his staff are impermissible out-of-season practice activities; unauthorized individuals recruiting off campus; exceeding time limits for athletically related activities; provision of recruiting inducements; extra benefits to prospective student-athletes; and unethical conduct by a member of the coaching staff.

    It all certainly does not bode well for an athletic department whose football team was on probation for a few years recently after being found guilty of NCAA infractions. It's going to be interesting to see how everything plays out.

    I'll have more on the college football bowl games next week, but you've got to hand it to Ohio State for proving all the skeptics wrong and beating Miami in double overtime Friday to win a thrilling national championship contest.

    I was among those who thought the Hurricanes would drub the Buckeyes. Shows you what I know.

    Marty Mishow is a sports writer for the Southeast Missourian

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