Kennett's Kevonte Mitchell (left) looks on as Kennett's Collin Smith (middle) prepares to avoid a block by West Memphis' Keira Brown. [Order this photo]
NEW MADRID, Mo. - The Kennett Indians varsity boys basketball team started slow, rallied in the second half, but never caught up to the West Memphis, Ark., Blue Devils in its season-opener Friday afternoon at the Riverbend Classic in New Madrid, Mo.
The Blue Devils jumped out to a 19-6 lead less than six minutes into the game. The Indians narrowed the margin to eight at 36-44 with 4:44 left in the third quarter before West Memphis ended the game on a 30-17 run on its way to a 74-53 win against Kennett.
"They've got four games under their belt and I asked [West Memphis] coach Larry Bray ahead of time if they were missing any kids because of football and he said he wasn't missing any kids," Kennett coach Jim Vaughan said. "He's had his kids the entire season so that makes me feel a little bit better that we got beat by a fully stocked team.
"They are a good opponent that is lengthy," Vaughan continued. "We struggled scoring at times and turned the ball over early. That's my fault. I didn't prepare us very well for the type of press we faced and I didn't do any work trying to gain information on them. We had 13 of our turnovers in the first quarter alone."
Kennett outscored West Memphis 15-14 in the second period after losing the first quarter 24-10.
"We settled down," Vaughan said. "Our second quarter was our best quarter. We cut it to eight in the third quarter and saw glimpses of what we can be. We are still missing a couple of kids. Missing Antonio Primer makes a difference in scoring. We only had one double-digit scorer tonight and Rantrell Caruthers could have helped us in handling pressure. But I don't want to take away anything from the players on the floor. I thought kids competed.
"In the rebounding area Collin, Materion and Divante did a good job fighting underneath against lengthier guys," Vaughan added. "We rebounded pretty well all night. That was an area we were a little worried about coming in."
Junior Kevonte Mitchell calculated a team-high 20 points for the Indians.
"He took one deep three late," Vaughan said of Mitchell. "It was not a bad three because if it would have gone it was in the middle of our run. He got to the basket and they had no answer for him. He's a pretty special kid when he's going downhill. He's hard to stay in front of and can score over people. He did that aggressively tonight. We've got to keep him out of foul trouble. He got two cheap ones and we are going to want him to be on the floor all the time not in foul trouble. He's got to get better there and we've got to get better in the half-court offense and find ways to get him the ball in more areas."
Four Kennett players - freshman Akeem Nelson, senior Collin Smith, junior Materion Jones and sophomore Harold Weeden - received their first significant playing time on varsity.
"I thought we had proverbial first-game jitters out of some of our guys," Vaughan said. "I thought Harold was shaky early and then settled in and started playing hard. Akeem was a little shaky early and unsure of himself. That's not like him to doubt himself, but he's got his feet wet now and I think you will see two different guys out there tomorrow.
"Materion Jones had no varsity experience and very little junior varsity experience," Vaughan continued. "I thought he was pretty aggressive and missed shots he might usually make. But that will come. Collin Smith has got to get back in the flow of things after being out of it for a year and a half, but he did some awfully tough things tonight. Once the game starts coming to him and he catches up to the speed of a varsity game he is going to make a big difference.
"It's definitely a maturation process," Vaughan added.
Marcus Nesby paced West Memphis with 20 points. Kelvin Mooney and Glen Burns each tallied 12 points for the Blue Devils.
Three other varsity boys basketball games were played Friday at the Riverbend Classic. Charleston, Mo., defeated Covington, Tenn., 91-66; New Madrid County Central beat Pine Bluff, Ark., 63-50; and North Little Rock, Ark., cruised past Scott County Central 99-57.
Kennett (0-1) will take on Pine Bluff Saturday at 2 p.m. at the Riverbend Classic. Other games on Saturday at the Riverbend Classic are Covington vs. Scott County Central at 3:30 p.m., North Little Rock vs. Charleston at 5 p.m. and West Memphis vs. New Madrid County Central at 6:30 p.m.
"They've got some good looking kids we've got to be ready to have answers for," Vaughan said of Pine Bluff. "They were down 13-0 against New Madrid County Central and got within two points in the fourth quarter. They are competitive kids that are coached hard. Rebounding will be a factor for us Saturday along with handling the different defenses they throw at us. I think we will be all right, but we've got to come out and want to compete and forget about this one tonight."
Kennett's No. 34 Materion Jones and multiple West Memphis defenders watch Kennett's Antavies Drake soar to the basket. [Order this photo]
West Memphis 74, Kennett 53
MEM 24 14 20 16 - 74
KHS 10 15 13 15 - 53
WEST MEMPHIS (74) - Dedrick Brown 4, Kelvin Mooney 12, Fabian Logan 9, Glen Burns 12, Marcus Nesby 20, Dannie Gatewood 1, Vakemeyus Davis 9, Alexander Davis 7. FG 29, F/T 12/20, F 15. (3-pointers: Mooney 1, V. Davis 3. Fouled out: none)
KENNETT (53) - Antavies Drake 8, Cameron Harper 2, Akeem Nelson 2, Jay Edgington 3, Collin Smith 2, Kevonte Mitchell 20, Harold Weeden 8, Materion Jones 6, Divante Taylor 2. FG 20, F/T 10/16, F 17. (3-pointers: Weeden 2. Edgington 1. Fouled out: none)