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Wednesday, September 28, 2022

Big Night at Tiger Center as Charleston Sweeps Waldron

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The stars were out in Charleston Tuesday night at Tiger Center. In front of the home crowd that included Charleston Great Ty Storey and college basketball scouts from such schools as Stephen F. Austin and Indiana State, the Charleston basketball program swept the senior girls and boys games each by more than 30 points. The wins vaulted both the Charleston girls and boys teams into first place in their respective conferences.

In the girls game, the Lady Tigers continued their defensive domination combined with a fast-break offense that exploited many scoring opportunities in the Waldron defense. Charleston coach Jason Rucker believes his team is finally playing the game in keeping with its personality and team philosophy as it focuses on the stretch drive of the season. “I really thought for the first time all year we played fast, so, hopefully, we can continue to build on that moving forward.” For the Lady Tigers, Payton Rucker led Charleston scorers with 16 points. Gracie Koch had 10 points, and Raegan Oldridge had 9 points. Charleston defeated the Lady Bulldogs 56-26.

The boys game included the much-anticipated match-up with conference-leading Waldron and their prolific player, Peyton Brown. But it was the Bulldogs’ Mason Ford who stole the show early. Early in the game, Ford broke lose for a spectacular slam dunk that left fans gazing upward with mouths open.

The boys game, at times, resembled a track meet as both teams pressed the ball offensively and played pressure defense. The Bulldogs were able to reach the paint early in the game with their athletic guards and forwards. Charleston seemingly adjusted with their low post players and began to stop Waldron’s offensive penetration to the basket. Tiger senior Brayden Ross had a big game for Charleston, both offensively and defensively. A lot was at stake for both teams, and the intensity level was at a fever pitch for the entire game. For the Bulldogs, the team got off to a fast start, but seemed to cool off offensively after Charleston began to block the lane. Waldron uncharacteristically missed shots that they normally make, and when it was all over, Charleston, behind a physical and relentless defense, and a good offensive performance from Ross and Jordan Fenner, proved to be too much for Waldron on this night. The Tigers survived a furious fourth quarter comeback effort from Waldron to eventually win the game 82-52.

Brayden Ross led Tigers scorers with 32 points. Jordan Fenner poured in 31. Tigers Trenton Goodson had 7, Brandon Scott 5, Geoffery Scott 4, and Dalton Curtis 3. The offensive explosion, combined with holding Waldron and their explosive scorers to 52 points was the story of the game.

Charleston coach B. J. Ross was excited over the team’s total effort on Tuesday night. “I thought we played a complete team basketball game. We executed our defensive game plan. I thought the difference in the game as the energy and intensity. Geoffery Scott did a great job on Peyton Brown. Big turning points in the game were Trenton Goodson’s three-pointer at the buzzer at half and Brayden Ross’s three pointer at the buzzer to end the third quarter. Jordan Fenner played his most complete game of the year. Brandon Scott (a freshman) has really handled the pressure well and did an outstanding job controlling the game.”

Make no mistake; Waldron is a great team, and Tuesday night, playing on the road, it was not the Bulldog’s night. The rematch in Waldron should be a barn burner, and it will be a game that fans from both schools will not want to miss. Waldron will be tough in their building given the desire to even the score with Charleston and what will be at stake for both schools in the conference standings.

With the win, the Lady Tigers maintained their hold on first place in the conference. Charleston is now 14-2 overall and 5-0 in conference play. The Lady Tigers are in first place with Elkins at 3-1, West Fork 3-2, Lincoln 3-2, and Cedarville 2-2. Waldron is now 2-3 in conference with Greenland 1-4 and Mansfield 0-4. Charleston will host Mansfield this Friday night at Tiger Center.

The Tigers win improved the boys record to 7-5 overall and 4-0 in the conference. The Tigers are tied with Elkins in league play; both with 4-0 records. Waldron drops to 4-1 on the season in conference play. Greenland is 2-2, Cedarville and Mansfield are 1-3, and Lincoln is 1-4. West Fork rounds out the conference at 0-4. The Tigers will play Mansfield this Friday and have a make-up game to be played with West Fork (postponed last Friday due to severe weather in West Fork.)

For the senior boys, there is a lot of basketball left to be played. The rematch with Waldron later in the season will be an important game for both schools with respect to the conference standings. Games with Elkins will also play an important role in not only who wins the conference but the eventual order of finish in the conference and seedings in the all-important district tournament. Last night’s win was huge for the Tigers, but they will have to come off of the win quickly to refocus on the next game coming up in the conference schedule.

Barring injury, the Lady Tigers appear to be hitting mid-season form on their way to the district tournament and beyond. Charleston is an experienced team, both in varsity play and in playoff experience. I expect Charleston to continue their march to the district title and deep into the state playoffs. If this team continues to hit their stride and play the way they are capable, Charleston should be a strong contender for another state title. There is a lot of basketball left in the season, and the playoffs are certainly no guarantee for any team, but this is a state tournament experienced team and they know what it will take to be successful in the tournament.

The Tigers played a tough non-conference schedule that, although it resulted in early season losses, has toughened the team and has prepared them to play their best in the conference. This was evidenced last evening against a very good Waldron team, and the boys have an opportunity to make a state playoff run of their own.

The next six weeks should be fun for Charleston fans. But first things first. The Tigers and Lady Tigers will need to simply focus on the next game up and not get ahead of themselves. But, this is what they know. It is part of the championship culture at Charleston High School.

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Jim Best
Jim Best is a man of many talents. His storied career in Arkansas education led him to a new passion, and hidden gifts in sports journalism.
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