Kennett's No. 22 Shon Wynne defends NMCC's No. 44 Karen McGloson. Wynne returned to action for Kennett Wednesday after missing the first part of the season due to a knee injury. [Order this photo]
NMCC's No. 20 Amirah Ruff pushes the ball past Kennett's No. 3 Kaytlyn Parker.
"We just did not execute well," Kennett coach Rod Baxter said. "We knew their defensive sets and prepared to attack them in practice. We committed early turnovers and did not get into their press. It got us out of our offense. New Madrid's press was very effective and caused us all kinds of grief.
"We were down eight or ten with six minutes left in the half," Baxter continued. "I told my assistant 'we need to get this to five by halftime. 'Then it got to 15 and then 20. Against a team like New Madrid that takes the ball to the hoop it's hard to come from behind because you cannot get to the rim often enough yourself because they go to the rim every time."
New Madrid County Central had six players combine for 49 points in the first half. The Eagles ended the first half on a 24-2 run and entered halftime with a 49-17 lead.
"We wanted to come out and play four quarters of fast-paced basketball," New Madrid County Central coach David Crockett said. "We wanted to press and see how they could handle it. I thought we pretty well dominated about every aspect of the game."
Anna Kay Hilburn led Kennett in scoring with 10 points. Hilburn scored all of her points in the first quarter and calculated both of the Indians' 3-pointers.
"She was getting her shots early out of our offensive sets," Baxter said of Hilburn's offensive dominance early in the game. "But the point of that is we never got deeper into our offense than that. That is the tale right there because we share the ball. We didn't have any scoring early so she took it upon herself to attack their best player with the basketball. She drew some fouls on her early and hit some shots. We like the senior leadership she provided.
"She was very sick at halftime and could not start the second half," Baxter continued. "She wanted to get back in, but I thought it was in her best interest to give her a little rest tonight."
Darby Sparks and Kenna Hounihan were the only other players to record more than one field goal for Kennett. Both tallied two field goals. Hounihan finished with six points and Sparks tallied four.
"It was just an overall team defensive effort," Crockett said of stopping Kennett. "We are going to get after you and put pressure on you. If you cannot handle it the score is going to indicate it. That's what happened tonight. They couldn't handle the pressure and us constantly getting after them. We are a physical team and it seems like that don't handle the physicality too well."
Benesha Childress tallied a field goal in every quarter on her way to a game-high 29 points for New Madrid County Central. Karen McGloson added 18 points and Rashaunda Summers scored 16 points for the Eagles.
"At times we looked really good," Crockett said of his offense. "We moved the ball early on. The second half I thought we kind of got stagnant waiting on someone to make a play, but when the score is like it was it is going to happen."
Kennett's Shon Wynne saw playing time for the first time this season Wednesday. Wynne had missed Kennett's first nine games with a knee injury. She did not score Wednesday night, but provided an additional inside presence for the Indians.
"We were happy with Shon," Baxter said of the five-foot-eight forward. "Shon is going to do some things well and probably struggle with some things. We are excited because she will give us another dimension to the interior play of our game that will help our team. It's just a matter of getting her up and down the floor and getting her cardio built up."
Kennett (7-3) will look to advance to the fifth-place championship game when it takes on sixth-seeded Naylor in a semifinal contest of the fifth-place bracket Friday at 8 p.m. Third-seeded Neelyville beat sixth-seeded Naylor 54-33 in its championship quarterfinal contest Tuesday.
"Naylor has two really good scorers," Baxter said. "We've been defending teams with two really good scorers of late. Senath has two really good scorers, as does New Madrid, as does Doniphan. So we know how to defend two good scorers. What we will have to do with this one day of practice is get back in the gym and get focused on how we are going to run our sets. We will spend time on some of the things Naylor does, but more importantly get the girls back in the comfortable confines of home and get through some offensive and defensive pressure sets. We will probably have a light workout because this will be our third game this week and it's really hard on high school girls' legs to play three games in a week. We will come over here as prepared and healthy as we can and compete."
New Madrid County Central will look to advance to the championship of the tournament for the first time since 2000 when it takes on Neelyville in a championship semifinal Friday at 6:30 p.m. Top-seeded Dexter will play fourth-seeded Clearwater in the other championship semifinal Thursday at 6:30 p.m. The championship is slated for Saturday at 7:30 p.m.
"We are just taking it one game at a time," Crockett said. "We'll see what happens. We've got to get ready for Neelyville on Friday."
No. 2 New Madrid County Central 77, No. 7 Kennett 30
KHS 14 3 7 6 - 30
NMC 23 26 14 14 - 77
KENNETT (30) - Darby Sparks 4, Anna Kay Hilburn 10, Logan Vaughan 3, Lara Abmeyer 2, Khadijah Whitfield 3, Kenna Hounihan 6, Courtney McElhaney 2. FG 11, FT 6/15, F 14. (3-pointers: Hilburn 2. Fouled out: none)
NEW MADRID COUNTY CENTRAL (77) - Shanterra Waters 3, Dallas Campbell 2, Amirah Ruff 5, Whitney Williams 4, Benesha Childress 29, Karen McGloson 18, Rashaunda Summers 16. FG 31, FT 12/16, F 14. (3-pointers: Ruff 1, Childress 1, Summers 1. Fouled out: none)