Tradition rich Blue Jay basketball program…

It’s really a privilege to be able to cover the Charleston Blue Jays basketball program for as many years as I have…Missouri Hall of Fame Coach Danny Farmer is as press friendly as they get; and legendary former coach Lennies McFerren always knew how to make a young sportswriter comfortable.

Last year, however, was my first time to go the Final Four. Replete with credentials first class and a hotel room with the kids in hand, I chronicled the exciting third pace finish in a special section. And, the Jays were a free throw away from making the championship game.

This season Charleston is loaded for Bear. A strong schedule that will put L’s on the ledger, but as usual the strength gained and experience gathered on the floor will make another run to a title opportunity an achievable goal of this year’s edition.

Though Gregory Tucker – an early signee with Northern Colorado gets a lot of attention, and deservedly so – the Blue Jays are especially deep and experienced. Admittedly, there’s no guarantee Charleston escapes the state’s toughest District, but that is the expectation and anything less than a 20th trip to Columbia will be a disappointment.

Rack that up to expectations, yes and deservedly so; but well-earned.

Check this: 10 Missouri State Championships…4 Second Place finishes; 3 Third Place and 2 Fourth Place.

*Before we preview the 2011-12 edition, let’s take a quick glance back at last season. A scintillating and exciting weekend of hoops resulting in some more hardware for the stocked trophy case.

In the consolation game, Charleston came out flat after suffering the heartbreaking 86-79 OT loss to eventual state champ Hogan Prep. In that semifinal game, the Jays were a free-throw away from icing the game.

The Jays came out flat in the third place game trailing by 22 at intermission; fell behind by 24 to start the second half then but went on a record-setting tear to overwhelm a outstanding and astonished Elsberry 87-79.

Charleston owns the mark now for most points scored in a fourth quarter with the 38-point show out surpassing Riverview Garden’s 1992 record; and equaled esteemed Scott County Central points for a half with a 64-point output.

So, we enter 2011-12 with a baseball team coming off its first ever Final Four under coach Michael Minner; Brett Blackman’s football Blue Jays just come off a playoff experience. It’s up to the history laden basketball team to keep the streak going….

Any takers?….Thought not.

Full preview forthcoming before Friday’s matchup with Pine bluff, Ark. River Bend Classic at New Madrid County Central. The Jays play perennial Ark. power West Memphis Saturday.

http://www.mshsaa.org/Schools/SportsAndActivities/Schedule/?s=259&alg=5

For complete Charleston schedule.

*Farmer quotes*….endeavoring to reach Coach Farmer; which I do at his home phone; as I have done for years. When I was the Sports Editor of the Daily Dunklin Democrat in Kennett in the late 80’s ; I incorporated all the small schools in the area to be a part of the coverage, but needed to phone the coaches at home – (back in those days folks, remember, there were no such things as cell phones) so I got to know families; sons, wives and have great memories of time served there at the award-winning paper.

And to end this story, a quote from Charleston KCHR Radio man – and a lot more – Dave Manker, prior to the Blue Jays making their nearly seemingly annual trek to Columbia last year. ….*March 17, 2011 via Dave Manker!! Facebook post…. Dave also has just announced this is his last season as the play-by-play man. Job Well Done, sir…Kp

….For the 19th time, Charleston ‘s High School basketball team, the Blue Jays, left for Columbia to compete in the Final Four . Ten state champion banners hang in the gym. Ponder on this…Since 1967, 28 district titles. A 72-19 won/loss record in state playoff games, 19 trips to the Final 4 coming into this season. 10 state championships, 4 second place finishes, 2 third and 2 fourth. Hall of Fame season in 1990 (33-0)….go Blue Jays, bring us home another banner.

I think what Dave just said sums up what the Blue Jay Nation feels about their basketball team.

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‘Upon Their Shoulders’…history of the MRC…

UPON THEIR SHOULDERS – A history of the Mississippi River commission from its inception through the advent of the modern Mississippi River and Tributaries Project

By Charles Camillio

Really a really, really good read so far….Really…..Kp

Might be a good Christmas present idea for residents in the BPNMF region…try Amazon and don’t forget BIG COLORING books for the kids…Remember, RIF…reading IS fundamental…

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EAGLE basketball brief retro…Ep season #100

Long-time East Prairie sports observers don’t talk a lot about the Eagles basketball prowess…

Here’s why. In a nutshell…This is the 100-th season of Ep basketball; the Eagles began play in 1911-12 season. We have enjoyed 19 winning seasons.

Since legendary coach Bud Hendrix left for the greener shores of North Carolina in 1989, where he continued his winning ways, East Prairie has registered 2 winning seasons.

18-10 under Matt Schonhoff in the 2006-7 season and 18-10 in the 2004-5 seasons. That last winning year was the 19th in school history.

The first was in the Eagles’ second season in 1912-13 where under R.A. Doyle the team went 3-1. Clem Walker’s 7-1 team in 1916-17 was the second. Then, again in the 1920-21 (3-2), 1923-24 (5-4), 1923-24 (5-4) and 1924-25 (4-3), the schools first back to back winning seasons.

Seven coaches later, the Eagles would notch another winning season under Hugh May in the 1940-41 (14-4); the first to reach double digit victories. Jack Russell led the Eagles to another pair of back to back winning season in 1946-47 (8-7) and 1947-48 (13-6).

The final of back to back winning seasons – until Hendrix – came on the 10th winning record in the history of the school with Ray Melton’s 1952-53 (20-4) and 1953-54 (13-7) Eagles. That set of athletes also halted the losing streak in football to county rival Charleston.

Don Elliott’s 1958-59 team (8-7) would be the schools 11th and final winning season until the wildly successful – in Ep measure – Bud Hendrix era. There would be 12 coaches until the Hendrix returned to his alma mater in the 1980-81 season notching the school’s first winning season (13-12) since the 1958-59 season.

What Hendrix did in his decade (9 years) as coach is unparalleled. Frankly, no discussion of rivaled span of Eagles basketball exists. There were highlights from that run hopefully some of the old players will comment about on this story. The Bloomfield Christmas Tournament comes to mind; and a Scott Mississippi Conference tournament.

Ep experienced only two losing seasons under Coach Hendrix;  one was his second year at the helm in 1981-82 ( 4-16) and then not again until his next to last season (9-13) in 1987-88. Hendrix was .500 (12-12) in his final season at East Prairie.

In between, the Eagles rolled up a unprecedented and never seriously threatened record winning streak of 5-years in a row highlighted by the 23-6 team of 1985-86. The Eagles were 14–10 in 1982-83; 15-12 in 1983-84, 13-9 in 1984-85; 23-6 and then 14-10 in the final winning season of 1986-87.

It would take five more coaches to get the Eagles back into the winning column under current Portageville coach Jason Irby in 2004-2005. A stretch of nearly a quarter century (24 seasons) without a winning mark.

So, with those numbers fresh in the mind during this Centennial Season, come out and support the Eagles. It’s not about the wins and losses, but how you play the game some times.

Coach Casey Knight’s third edition of Eagles get underway at the Bernie Invitational playing top seed Risco to open the season Nov. 29 at 6 p.m.

I will say this for Coach Knight, these kids hustle and play with good sportsmanship that make EPHS proud. And, for that, Eagle alums and administration are truly thankful. What the Eagles may lack in pure hoops talent, the effort put forth on the floor can not be questioned under Knight’s helm.

And while there aren’t any 7-footers walking through the door anytime soon at Ep, the cupboard is getting stocked with more talent and an upcycle in on the horizon. This year, the Eagles will have to scrape out the W’s…but, they will be worth the price of admission and deserve support from Eagle Nation.

That’s why the play the games.

*Source material courtesy of SEMOSPORTSWEB.com

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Chillaxin weekend…

There were times in life where Friday nights and weekends were consumed with finding something to do…just having to be moving, going somewhere doing – well – anything.

Not now…

Content with just being.

In one place at one time. Knowing the soft laughter and loud noises currently surrounding me are like music to my ears – that in the old days would have been coming from some band on a stage in some place.

But the place to be now is Home. And, simply, that’s where the Heart is…

It’s easy to see the joys. It’s also equally as tough to find the balance. Of Love and strictness; play and fun…chore time and school work. Lately, I’ve been retrospective in terms of analyzing the future prospects on the Horizon…and frankly, it’s been illuminating, excruciating and invigorating…

As one wise cousin said to me once, “It’ll be OK because it’s got to be OK.”

Profounder words were never uttered. Life forces dictate our existence. Dreams are only bound by lack of vision and Hope. Searching for the answers enhance this process we all share traveling the journey

Look around. In this time of Thanksgiving and Christmas celebrations ahead; Families will take time to share cherished memories; warmth and tenderness. All the while people are suffering, too.

The tragedy of the Oklahoma State basketball coaches; the ongoing national saga of a sordid child-sex scandal at one of the countries most prestigious universities; locally, two husbands are suspected in foul play in the disappearance of their wives; police are forced to shoot to protect themselves…

There is no escaping reality. Putting it on pause for a while and chillaixin for a weekend…

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VACATION….

Gonna take a few days off from writing…will be back soon with basketball previews and continued reflections on life, loves and liberties….Kp

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