Kennett's Akeem Nelson handles the ball Friday night against the Sikeston defense.
KENNETT, Mo. - The Kennett Indians varsity boys basketball team came up four points shy of knocking off the No. 1 ranked Class 4 basketball team in Missouri Friday night.
The state-ranked Sikeston Bulldogs shot 12 of 33 (36 percent) from 3-point range on its way an 84-80 victory against the Indians on Courthwarming Night at Kennett.
"We stepped out of the locker room and we said 'no moral victories tonight,'" Kennett coach Jim Vaughan said. "Sikeston's season is going like it should every year and ours has been a little shaky. We wanted to go out and attack this thing right away. We wanted to prove to ourselves where we can be. If just a couple of things here and there go different we could have come out of this with a win. They made some tough shots late and hit some big 3's that really helped them out a little bit, but what we did do tonight is we proved to ourselves we are that caliber and that is a step in the right direction this time of the year."
Neither team led by double-digits.
Sikeston's largest lead was nine three times in the first quarter. Kennett's largest lead was 9-4 with 4:43 left in the first period.
"You have to give Kennett so much credit," Sikeston coach Gregg Holifield said. "They came in and worked so hard. They did a very good job, I thought. I knew they would on a Friday night Homecoming. They have a good ball club and really worked hard. They did everything they could to win the basketball game."
Sikeston went on a 14-0 run in the first quarter to turn a 9-4 deficit into an 18-9 advantage. The Bulldogs' Vashawn Ruffin knocked down back-to-back-to-back 3-pointers during the spurt.
"He's so silky smooth," Vaughan said of Ruffin. "He's good with the basketball in his hands and his one-dribble jump-up is about as quality as you will find in a high school kid. The only thing he doesn't have is he is not six-foot-four to be able to shoot over that next big-time player. We wanted to keep him in front of us and not let him get around us. He does see things really well, but we didn't want him breaking us down. Sometimes not allowing him to break us down allows him to get shots off if he's got a little space. He burned us quite a few times. He hit one we did a good job of contesting near our bench. That's the sign of a kid that has went in, gone to work and become a player."
Kennett played from behind the remainder of the first half after falling behind by nine in the first quarter.
The Indians ended the first half on a 5-0 run to trim Sikeston's lead to 36-35 at halftime. Kennett outscored Sikeston 20-14 in the second quarter after losing the first quarter 22-15.
Sikeston recorded four 2-pointers and two 3-pointers in the second quarter.
"I thought our shot selection was not very good," Holifield said of the first half. "I thought we took quick shots and just didn't guard the way we are capable of. We've got to get back to work and make sure we do that. But Kennett did a good job of attacking in a lot of areas that hurt us."
Kennett's Kevonte Mitchell tallied 13 of his team-high 31 points before halftime. The Indians' Antonio Primer recorded 11 of his 19 points in the first half.
"There is no doubt those two are go-to-guys for us," Vaughan said. "They know how to score the basketball. They both have size, length and rebound it well. Antonio had 11 rebounds tonight and Kevonte had nine to go along with his scoring. They just do a whole lot for us and seldom come out of the basketball game.
"Kevonte did a great job of playing with four fouls late," Vaughan said. "Antonio tweaked his ankle at halftime. Once he got settled down at halftime everything was OK. He didn't want tape or a brace. He just competed his butt off in the second half. Those two are key to lifting our team up and what is really cool about our kids is everybody will play off of them and know who they are . . . We will take tonight and go even farther with that I hope."
The game was tied 50-50 with 1:06 remaining in the third quarter before Sikeston ended the frame on a 6-0 run to take a 56-50 lead entering the fourth quarter.
"We had a spurt that allowed us to build a 6-point lead," Holifield said. "It helped us, but they didn't go away. They played hard and played with confidence. They just did a great job I thought."
Kennett never caught Sikeston in the fourth quarter, but never trailed by more than seven. The closest Kennett got was 68-69 with 4:10 left in regulation before Sikeston pushed the deficit to 77-70 at the 2:58 mark.
Ruffin hit five 3-pointers in the first half and two in the second half on his way to a team-high 25 points.
Sikeston's Markeith Bratcher hit all three of his treys after halftime. He scored 17 of his 21 points in the second half.
"We shot it well at times, but that's really not what we do," Holifield said. "We are more patient. Tonight we were taking quick, early shots. That's got to be a point of emphasis for us and we will go back to work and try to get better in that area, but you cannot take anything away from Kennett. They really played well."
Sikeston's J.T. Jones tallied 14 of his 16 points after halftime after getting in foul trouble in the first half.
"We went at him early and it got him in foul trouble," Vaughan said of Jones. "I thought we were close to drawing a third in the first half. It didn't soften him up, but it made him not quite as aggressive to go do things defensively. I think a little less floor time helped contain his offense, but credit our kids for not backing down. We are going to go at a player of his caliber and we did. We were able to keep him off the floor a little bit in the first half, but not quite as much in the second half."
All 31 of Kennett's field goals were 2-pointers. Kennett was 18 of 25 from the free-throw-line. It shot 0 of 7 from 3-point range.
"We took seven [3's], but with Sikeston's pressure if you can get past the first wave and not let them catch up to you and get the ball to the middle a little bit you can attack," Vaughan said. "I thought our kids were awful hungry to do that tonight. I was really pleased with that. We had some finishes that we didn't get to go down in some key spots, but at the same time we had some finishes that we scored on people."
Akeem Nelson scored 11 points for Kennett. Harold Weeden also finished in double-digits with 10 points.
Kennett turned the ball over four times less than Sikeston.
"We were as composed tonight in the full-court as we have been all year," Vaughan said. "Now if we get better in the half-court and execute things a little more we have fewer empty offensive trips."
Sikeston (15-1) will compete with Kennett in Class 4, District 1, at the Bearcat Event Center at Dexter in February. The Bulldogs have won Class 4, District 1, the last four seasons and are undefeated against teams within its district this season. Kennett moved to Class 4, District 1, this season after competing in Class 3, District 1, in the 2011-12 season.
"No moral victories," Vaughan said of Friday's loss. "We feel like we should have won that game. We were right there in position and some things didn't go as they needed to for us at the end of the game. I told each one of them 'you think of one more play you could have made that could of made a huge difference in this game.' But what we do take out of this is hopefully now we are so hungry to be better and be that competitor every practice and we start eliminating some of that stuff that kept us from winning tonight."
Sikeston blistered Kennett 69-38 in the junior varsity game.
Kennett (10-5) is back in action Saturday at 1 p.m. when it hosts South Pemiscot (12-6). The game was originally scheduled for Tuesday, but was postponed because of inclement weather. Kennett defeated South Pemiscot 75-46 on Dec. 29.
South Pemiscot defeated Senath-Hornersville 85-59 Friday night to improve to 2-3 in Bootheel Conference regular-season play. Kennett is currently 5-0 in Bootheel Conference regular-season play.
"I guess we have done enough to win the regular-season conference outright, but our goal was not to lose a conference game so this is huge for us tomorrow," Vaughan said. "It's a tough situation for both of us. South Pemiscot played Thursday and Friday and we had Sikeston tonight. We've both got to turn around and do it against each other again Saturday. What happened in the last game matters absolutely zero. The kids are going to be ready to play the basketball game Saturday. It's who can come with a little more will Saturday and a little more grit. Hopefully, our kids bring that Saturday."
Kennett's Kevonte Mitchel penetrates to the paint. [Order this photo]
SHS 22 14 20 28 - 84
KHS 15 20 15 30 - 80
SIKESTON (84) - Zach Jackson 2, Jairius Ray 9, Vashawn Ruffin 25, J.T. Jones 16, Reese Porter 11, Markeith Bratcher 21. FG 33, FT 6/11, F 23. (3-pointers: Ruffin 7, Bratcher 3, Ray 1, Jones 1. Fouled out: none)
KENNETT (80) - Rantrell Caruthers 2, Akeem Nelson 11, Collin Smith 5, Kevonte Mitchell 31, Harold Weeden 10, Antonio Primer 19, Materion Jones 2. FG 31, FT 18/25, F 12. (3-pointers: none. Fouled out: none)