Opponents yesterday, Eastern teammates today

Blake Nash, Staff Reporter

Last February, two of Eastern’s newest basketball players were on opposing sides of the basketball game.

Freshman Casey Teson and his St. Charles teammates were on their way to a Missouri state championship, but were facing Fort Zumwalt South, which was led by another future Panther, freshman Marshawn Blackmon. For both teams, it was the final regular season game, which carried a special meaning.

Word had gotten out before the game that both Teson and Blackmon had committed to play college basketball, at the same school. The stage was set for a battle between two future Eastern basketball players.

“I think that’s why my coach actually scheduled the game,” Blackmon said. Both our teams were in the Top 5 in the city or state in scoring, so I figured it would be a high-scoring game.”

It was indeed an offensive explosion, with Teson leading the Pirates to a 99-97 double-overtime win with 35 points, including the game-winning basket. Teson became the school’s all-time leading scorer, but the story had a different ending for Blackmon.

Blackmon had scored five points and picked up three fouls in the first half, and his team was losing ground to the Pirates. In the second half, Blackmon and teammate Preston Whitfield reignited the Bulldogs’ offense scoring 20 and 47 points, respectively.

All it was going to take for the Bulldogs to pull off the victory was a defensive stop on the final possession of the first overtime. Blackmon’s man was driving to the basket, with 10 seconds left, when he stopped for a pump fake. The ‘trigger-happy’ Blackmon leaped for the block and collided with the shooter.

Blackmon had just fouled out, and the shooter knocked down both shots at the free-throw line to move the game to a second overtime.

“I was the one that fouled Marshawn out,” Teson said. “I leaned into him after the pump fake and he ended up fouling out.”

Blackmon continued to support his team from the bench, as Whitfield and Teson continued the offensive onslaught for both teams. Ironically enough defense would decide the game.

Teson and a teammate forced Fort Zumwalt’s Drake Whaley into a double-team trap, when the ball came lose. Teson quickly picked it and drove to the other end for a go ahead layup with five seconds remaining in double overtime.

St. Charles led 98-97 and forced an errant shot by the Bulldogs the next possession. Rasheem Alexander was fouled and sent to the line for St. Charles, where he hit 1-of-2 free throws. A buzzer-beater attempt by Fort Zumwalt South fell short, and the Pirates won, 99-97.

As both players shook hands after the game, they knew they would see each other again in the future. The route to Eastern was different for both.

Teson was not unfamiliar with Eastern basketball before he committed to the Panthers. Assistant coach Rod Stricker coached him in both AAU and junior high basketball, and Teson knew he wanted to play for him once again.

“I’ve always wanted to stay with coach Stricker, because he’s pretty much taught me a lot,” Teson said. “I really liked playing with him in the 7th and 8th grade.”

Eastern and Stricker were complete strangers for Blackmon until his junior year of high school.

“We had a playoff game with Hazelwood Central for state,” Blackmon said. “We had practice earlier that day, and coach said that there was a college coach that was going to come to practice to watch me.”

After practice, Blackmon’s assistant coach, who attended Eastern, explained which school Stricker was from and what the school was like. Stricker tweeted to him following the game and the recruitment process began.

Come Friday they will be teammates in a game for the first time ever in a regular season game at Indiana.


Blake Nash can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]