By Joe Gisondi

Charleston struggled early against Mt. Zion in its boys basketball season opener Thursday night, losing 62-37 at Baker Gym.

In many ways, perhaps that should have been expected.

After all, the Trojans return only two significantly experienced players – Will Applegate and Caleb Oakley – and were missing a few other players who were sick.

Plus, Mt. Zion had already played four games, winning three to take second in a tournament whereas this was CHS’s season opener – a canceled tourney having prevented the Trojans from brushing aside any proverbial cobwebs across a few non-conference games.

Whether you want to call these excuses or challenges doesn’t really matter. The fact is that the Braves played smoother, shot better and made fewer turnovers in defeating the Trojans.

Mt. Zion grabbed a big lead early, going ahead 22-7 after the first quarter and 36-15 by halftime.

Will Applegate grabs a missed shot to score in the third quarter.

Charleston played much better in the second half.

Applegate, in particular, excelled to start the third quarter. He knocked down a 3-pointer from the left side, layed in another basket after a missed shot, and he then faked left on a drive and cut toward the hoop for a third straight basket that cut CHS’s deficit to 38-22 – all within a 2 minute, 40 second span.

Will Applegate hits a 3-pointer during a 7-0 run in the third quarter.

Applegate, a second-team all-Apollo selection last season, finished with a game-high 20 points.

“After getting beat pretty good for a little bit, it motivated me to try and take over,” Applegate said, “and do what I could to try and get (us) ahead.”

Will Applegate talks about his team’s challenge against Mt. Zion.

A few underclassmen contributed both in scoring and with assists.

Freshman Tyler Oakley scored five points while sophomore Luke Bonstetter added four more.

“The key takeaway is to not let the game take the wind out of our sails,” Charleston coach A.J. Alexander said. “I know these guys are absolute dogs, absolute fighters, and they’re gonna come right back harder than ever.”

CHS Coach A.J. Alexander talks about his team’s performance Thursday night.

Charleston next plays host to Taylorville on Saturday.

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Charleston781111 –37

CHARLESTON SCORING: Cam Dunklin 0 0-0 0, Brett Spour 0 0-0 0, Luke Bonstetter 2 0-0 4, Josh Sipes 1 0-0 3, Will Applegate 8 2-3 20, Langdon King 0 0-0 0, Tyler Oakley 2 0-0 5, Caleb Oakley 2 1-2 5. Totals – 15 3-4 37. 3-pointers – Applegate 2, Sipes 1, Tyler Oakley 1.

MT. ZION SCORING: Driscoll 4 4-4 14, Clark 2 0-0 4, Adams 2 0-0 4, Koester 4 0-0 9, McAtee 2 1-2 5, Weigler 0 2-2 2, Owens 5 0-0 11, Cuddy 2 0-0 5, Anderson 3 0-0 6, Hart 1 0-0 2. Totals – 25 7-8 62. 3-pointers – Driscoll 2, Koester 1, Owens 1, Cuddy 1.