Charleston Notes: Bluejays' success starts at defensive end

Charleston defenders Elmer Davis, left, and Sam Bledsoe trap an Ava ballhandler Saturday during the MSHSAA Class 3 Quarterfinal at Farmington.
Tom Davis ~ Tdavis@semoball.com

FARMINGTON — As the Ava boy’s basketball team discovered very early in its MSHSAA Class 3 Quarterfinal loss to Charleston Saturday, it’s difficult to scout – or prepare for – the Bluejays.

“They don’t play our style,” veteran Charleston coach Danny Farmer said following the 79-56 win. “We’re going to play the whole court, the whole game.”

It must be awful to have to deal with Charleston.

Defensively, Ava had to guard 6-foot-6 behemoth Blessin Kimble (17 points) on the blocks, while also trying to contain shooter Sam Bledsoe (16 points), athletic wing Isaiah Gillespie (nine points) and jitterbug point guard Terridean Bogan (12 points), who can penetrate whenever he chooses to.

Following a possession on that end – mostly followed by inbounding the ball following a Bluejay make – Gillespie, Brian Visor, and Bledsoe form a net of defenders just awaiting the opportunity to trap the unlucky recipient who catches the inbound pass.

“Once our defense starts turning things over,” Bogan explained, “then teams start panicking in the third and fourth quarters.”

The Charleston defense wears its opposition down mentally as much as it does physically.

The Bluejays led Ava 21-7 after eight minutes on Saturday and scored 46 points, a lot courtesy of their defensive pressure, following halftime.

“It wears them out,” Bogan said, “that is when our offense comes out.”

Charleston turned Ava over 14 times in the victory.

A ‘Blessin’ thing

The Bluejays have won 27 of 31 games this year and done so – at times – without Kimble being the dominant physical presence that he can be every single night.

When you have skilled athletes all over the floor, there are times Kimble, even as physically strong and athletic as he is, can get lost amid the talent.

That was not the case Saturday.

“He was really aggressive,” Farmer said of his center. “This is a game before the Final Four, so I expect him to really bring it.”

Kimble posted strong and called for the ball on a lot of early possessions, as he tried to establish his presence early.

“I really played aggressive today because I want to win,” Kimble said. “I’m a very competitive guy.”

Kimble said the games each week are becoming “harder,” so his aggressiveness, particularly at the offensive end, is beginning to show.

“The games are getting harder because everybody wants it just like we do,” Kimble said.

Familiar setting

Charleston will face Monroe City (28-2) Friday at 6:20 p.m. in the Class 3 semifinals. It will be the third straight season that Kimble and six other Bluejay seniors (Bledsoe, Bogan, Suave Fitzpatrick, Gillespie, Visor, and Tyrell Ware) will be making the trip.

As sophomores, Charleston lost in the state championship game 63-58 to Hogan Prep Academy Charter, while last year the Bluejays fell in the semifinal 70-47 to Vashon, before taking third place with a 71-58 win over St. Paul Lutheran (Concordia).

“It makes my job easier because they’ve been there,” Farmer said. “Especially since they’ve been there three times. They know what to expect.”

Kimble still admitted to being “a little nervous” prior to the quarterfinal, but Bogan wasn’t showing any anxiety when asked to discuss this coming weekend.

“It’s a business trip,” Bogan said. “We’ve got to go get it.”

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