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New Year's Eve Border War: Holcomb and Kennett to meet for first time in years after semifinal wins at Bloomfield Tournament

Sunday, December 30, 2012

BLOOMFIELD, Mo. - Dunklin County basketball fans who have waited years to watch the Holcomb and Kennett varsity boys basketball programs square off will not have to wait much longer.

The two towns, which are less than 15 miles from each other, will battle it out on New Year's Eve in the championship of the Bloomfield Christmas Tournament.

The starting time for the New Year's Eve Border War is approximately 7 p.m. Monday at the Bloomfield High School Gymnasium.

"A lot of our kids know each other," Kennett coach Jim Vaughan said of the championship showdown. "They play together in the summer and are good friends. It's going to be fun for both teams.

"They've got a size element with Massey, Glover and Vance," Vaughan added about Holcomb. "They came up big in the Hayti game Friday night. Their guard-play is also really composed. They are a team that will not get real rattled and will run their stuff well."

Holcomb coach Seth McBroom, who's brother played for Vaughan when Vaughan was the head coach at Twin Rivers in Broseley, Mo., is glad the matchup has finally materialized.

"He's a very close family friend," McBroom said of Vaughan. "You become good friends with a lot of these coaches. Me and Brad [Botsch] get along pretty well now that we've been around each other a long time. It's the same with Vaughan. I think me and Vaughan are both glad we are getting to play each other because we are so close. But he's going to try to destroy us. There is no doubt."

No varsity boys basketball program has won more games in Dunklin County than Kennett or Holcomb in the last five years. Both programs have increased their win total in every season but one since their current head coaches have been in place. The top juggernauts in the county have not scheduled each other in the regular-season.

"[People] are going to approach it like the big school, little school thing," McBroom said of the championship. "But we aren't worried about that. We are playing a basketball game. Lets lace em' up and see what happens. They are a great team and wouldn't be here if they were not. [Vaughan] has done a great job and needs to be commended for what he has done with that program.

"It's a big rivalry and we should play each other," McBroom continued. "I'll come out and say it. 'We should play each other just because I think it would be a big money maker for both schools.' But they are kind of extending their program up into a different area of competition and you applaud them for that."

Kennett and Holcomb enter the finals with matching 8-3 records. Kennett has won the Bloomfield Christmas Tournament each of the last three seasons.

"They are super athletic, very skilled, and extremely well-coached" McBroom said of Kennett. "It's going to be a battle. I think they will try to use their athleticism to give us fits like a lot of teams do. We are going to have to be ready to handle it and not freak out."

Top-seeded Kennett and sixth-seeded Holcomb advanced to the championship with their third win in three days Saturday.

Kennett beat the fourth-seeded South Pemiscot Bulldogs 75-46.

"Like last night I thought we came out and played really hard from the get-go," Vaughan said of the win. "We jumped on them pretty good early and we did it with a lot of defensive effort. It turned into easy buckets early. We sustained any kind of runs they made. They did some good things against us, but we were able to make our own runs and extend it a little bit. I really attribute that to the effort the kids put out there.

"I think the biggest things was our defensive intensity," Vaughan continued. "We've had a hard time staying in front of the dribble a couple of times and I just thought we were especially better there tonight than we had been any other night. Our kids got in stances better and didn't let them go by us. That made it tough for them because then they had to start making decisions because we didn't let them dribble by us."

Holcomb, which upset third-seeded Hayti in the quarterfinals Friday, collected its second upset in 48 hours Saturday when it defeated the No. 2 seeded Bernie Mules 52-39. Bernie entered the game with a perfect 10-0 record.

"The kids gutted it out," McBroom said of the win against Bernie. "It really turned into kind of an ugly game for both teams in some ways. They make you play ugly sometimes and it was just a freaking battle."

Kennett scored the first 13 points of its championship semifinal against South Pemiscot to take a 13-0 lead with 3:45 left in the first quarter. Kennett also went on a 9-0 run in the second quarter to increase it lead to 29-12 with under four minutes remaining in the first half.

"They were extremely more physical than we were," South Pemiscot coach Aaron Bidewell said. "If it's the weight room or whatever else we need to do we've absolutely got to get stronger. We've got to find a group of seven or eight kids that will be real tough kids for us.

"They just physically whopped us," Bidewell added. "That's the bottom line. We like to think we take a lot of pride in physical toughness and it wasn't that way tonight. Their physical toughness was almost double ours."

Kennett led the game 38-22 at halftime and maintained at least a 16-point lead throughout the second half.

"That's good when you can hold a lead," Vaughan said. "It's a sign of a pretty good team."

Jaleel Johnson led South Pemiscot in scoring with 12 points. Anton Wilbourn finished second in scoring for the Bulldogs with 10 points.

"We struggled," Bidewell said. "Kennett did a great job of shutting down the Harris kid. It's a great tribute to their players and what they are doing over there."

Kennett had six players score at least eight points. Kevonte Mitchell tallied 21 points, eight rebounds, four assists and three steals. Akeem Nelson calculated 13 points, eight rebounds and seven assists. Antavies Drake recorded 12 points and six assists. Antonio Primer finished with eight points and eight rebounds before fouling out with just under five minutes remaining in the fourth quarter. Harold Weeden had 11 points and Collin Smith scored nine points.

"I thought execution was pretty good," Vaughan said. "We had a hard time getting it to Antonio. He had a frustrating night. That's something we want to make more of an emphasis on. We want to get him post-touches. That was our opening-play tonight. We went right at him and he got a bucket right away. We want to get him good starts, but also keep him involved offensively. Overall, I thought our offensive attack was pretty good. I think our offensive rebounding may have attributed to that as well."

The second semifinal between Bernie and Holcomb featured less offense than the first semifinal. Holcomb led the game 10-4 at the end of the first period and 18-16 at halftime.

Bernie led the game 4-2 with 4:35 remaining in the first quarter, but did not score again until the 6:43 mark of the second quarter.

"Defensively we were just trying to lock in, stay in front of them and contest their shooters," McBroom said. "They are just so scary, well-coached and good. In some spurts I thought they were actually outworking us so you have to give them a lot of credit. They are mentally tough and as tough period as they come."

Michael Glover recorded eight of Holcomb's 10 first-quarter points on his way to an 11-point night.

"He come out ready to play," McBroom said of Glover. "He hit some big shots early, which he is definitely more than capable of doing. He gave us a big spurt from the get-go. He's a good player."

Bernie scored the final six points of the first half. The Mules hit three of their five treys in the second quarter.

Holcomb never trailed in the third quarter, but never led by more than six. The Hornets entered the fourth quarter with a 33-31 lead.

Bernie took its only lead of the second half when Troy Kirkpatrick knocked down his third 3-pointer of the game with 7:40 remaining to the put the Mules on top 34-33. Kirkpatrick's trey was the Mules' final field goal of the game.

"We really struggled shooting the ball all night long," Bernie coach Brad Botsch said. "Holcomb did a good job coming out to guard us and you can really credit them for that. Our kids are just going to have to work a lot harder because it was a really horrific night from us offensively."

The game was tied 35-35 before Holcomb went on an 8-0 run to take a 43-35 lead with 2:47 remaining. The Hornets led by at least seven the rest of the way.

"They had us out of sorts in the second and third quarter," McBroom said. "Then in the fourth quarter we went back to breaking the press and if we didn't have a lay-up we pulled it out and ran some offense to try to get Jamie a touch. That's what we needed to do and you've got to credit our kids for doing that."

Ryan Reeves scored all 14 of his points in the second half. Reeves hit Holcomb's only two 3-pointers and did not foul after halftime.

"He's a good player," McBroom said of Reeves. "He got in foul trouble in the second quarter. We were leading in the second quarter so we left him out. I trust him to play with two early, but it's so risky so we left him out to make sure he was good for the second half and it turned out well for us. He really played well in the second half."

Jamie Massey led Holcomb in scoring with 19 points. He recorded at least one field goal in every quarter.

Bernie was led in scoring by B.J. Jennings who tallied 10 points.

The Mules were without leading scorer David Baker, who suffered an injury near the end of Bernie's quarterfinal win against Portageville Friday night. Botsch said Baker landed on his arm and could not raise it above his shoulder Saturday.

"We don't feel by any means this loss was due to David not playing," Botsch said. "We had plenty of opportunities to win this game or be right there. You would like to think having David ,who is averaging over 20 points a game, would have helped us some, but there is no guarantee of that. He may have had an off night too. I think we just really needed some other kids to step up offensively. I thought we played hard defensively, but we just couldn't throw it in the ocean."

Bernie had three players - Brad Freed, Jennings and Sam Turner - foul out.

"I don't think so," Botsch said, when asked if the foul trouble impacted the final result. "I think everybody struggled from the field and Holcomb did a good job handling our pressure. I felt without David's scoring we needed to play as up-tempo as we could to try to get transition baskets and we didn't get many of those. Holcomb did a good job getting back and they were the better team tonight hands down."

Bernie will play South Pemiscot in the third-place game Monday at 5:30 p.m. Both teams are in Class 2, District 1, but do not schedule each other in the regular-season.

"That's a tough bounce-back game," Botsch said. "South Pemiscot is athletic and quick. They are going to get up and down. We are going to really have to do some soul searching to bounce back and get ourselves ready to play because if we don't we are going to end up 2-2."

Bidewell added: "To get to play against a quality opponent Monday is what we are blessed to do."

McBroom, who participated in the Bloomfield Christmas Tournament when he played high school basketball at Twin Rivers, hopes Holcomb makes the most of its first appearance in the title game.

"I told the kids 'I've played on some really good teams and never got to play in that championship game,' McBroom said. "So we need to relish that fact, but also great happenings come from great opportunities and we need to try to take advantage of it."

View box scores from Saturday's championship semifinals below:

No. 1 Kennett 75, No. 4 South Pemiscot 46

SPS 8 14 17 7 - 46

KHS 18 20 21 16 - 75

SOUTH PEMISCOT (46) - Cantrell Johnson 2, Collin Gilmore 2, Anthony Primer 4, Jacob Trammel 5, Anton Wilbourn 10, Deshawn Pruitt 3, Logan Carter 2, Jaleel Johnson 12, Seth Harris 6. FG 19, FT 7/15, F 16. (3-pointers: Trammel 1. Fouled out: none)

KENNETT (75) - Antavies Drake 12, Akeem Nelson 13, Collin Smith 9, Kevonte Mitchell 21, Harold Weeden 11, Antonio Primer 8, Materion Jones 1. FG 30, FT 12/17, F 19. (3-pointers: Weeden 2, Mitchell 1. Fouled out: none)

No. 6 Holcomb 52, No. 2 Bernie 39

HHS 10 8 15 19 - 52

BHS 4 12 15 8 - 39

HOLCOMB (52) - Tyler Lewis 3, Cameron Clark 5, Ryan Reeves 14, Jamie Massey 19, Michael Glover 11. FG 16, FT 18/32, F 21. (3-pointers: Reeves 2. Fouled out: none)

BERNIE (39) - Landon Woods 4, B.J. Jennings 10, Troy Kirkpatrick 9, Jake Wagner 2, J.R. Pregel 1, Bubby Schwent 2, Joey Walker 3, Brad Freed 1, Sam Turner 7. FG 12, FG 12, FT 10/21, F 26. (3-pointers: Kirkpatrick 3, Turner 1, Jennings 1. Fouled out: Kirkpatrick, Freed, Turner)

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