Kennett's Kevonte Mitchell spins around three Portageville defenders Thursday night at the Bootheel Conference Tournament in Malden.
MALDEN, Mo. - There will not be a repeat champion at the 2013 varsity boys Bootheel Conference basketball tournament.
The top-seeded Kennett Indians and No. 3 seeded Caruthersville Tigers are slated to battle it out for the Bootheel Conference Tournament title Friday at 7:30 p.m. in Malden following come-from-behind wins in their respective championship semifinal games Thursday night.
Kennett booked its fourth straight appearance in the conference championship when it overcame a nine-point first-half deficit to beat the fourth-seeded Portageville Bulldogs 79-68.
"This was a game real similar to the last one we played them," Kennett coach Jim Vaughan said, referring to the regular season game Kennett won at Portageville 74-69 on Dec. 14. "We went from a zone to man in the second half and picked them up full-court. Maybe I should have had them do that sooner. Our kids took the defensive strategy to heart. We had to stop the basketball. They had 22 points in the paint in the first half and I think we made it a little more difficult for them, slowed it down a little bit and got a few more contested jumpers out of it. We still didn't get consistent stops, but I think we changed the course of what [Portageville] did offensively in the second half."
Caruthersville overcame a 17-point deficit in the final 10 minutes of regulation to knock off defending conference tournament champion Hayti 75-73 in its semifinal.
"We are not deep at all and we ran out of gas," Caruthersville first-year coach Tim Smith said of falling behind early. "Hayti grabbed us by the neck and didn't let go, but we were able to make the adjustments at halftime and change it around."
Kennett standout junior guard Kevonte Mitchell saw his first playing since Jan 19.
Mitchell made his presence known after missing two games because of a leg injury, tallying a tournament-high 41 points against Portageville.
Mitchell scored so many points in the fourth quarter the numbers wouldn't fit in the appropriate column in the score book.
"It's the first time I've ever coached a game where I've had a player on my team score 40 plus," Vaughan said. "I had a 39 out of Michael Lance [at Twin Rivers]. Coach Patton told me '25 for Kevonte.' I said 'he had 25 tonight'? He said '25 in the fourth quarter and 41 for the game.'
"I had no idea he was scoring that much, but how impressive is it he shouldered that load when we lost our other primary scorer," Vaughan continued. "He took it to the basket and got banged. He continued to go back and get banged whether it was a call or not. He was composed tonight offensively."
Kennett needed a strong fourth quarter after playing from behind against Portageville for most of the night.
The Indians trailed Portageville throughout the first half. The Bulldogs led 20-11 at the end of the first quarter and 33-27 at halftime. A made free throw by Collin Smith with 4:47 left in the third quarter resulted in Kennett taking its first lead at 38-37.
Portageville held Kennett scoreless in the final minute of the third quarter to move back on top 45-43.
A 36-point fourth quarter by Kennett proved to be too much offense for Portageville to match.
The Indians were forced to do most of its damage in the fourth quarter without the services of forward Antonio Primer who was whistled for his fourth and fifth fouls in a three-second time interval. Primer tallied 10 points before fouling out with 4:42 remaining.
Portageville trailed 54-52 with 4:42 remaining and 62-61 with 2:18 remaining before consecutive baskets by Mitchell helped push the lead to 69-61 at the 1:15 mark of the fourth quarter.
Dominique Walker tallied 10 points in the first half and second half on his way to a team-high 20 points for Portageville. A.V. Banks hit all four of Portageville's treys on his way to a 17-point scoring total.
Caruthersville's Coleman Tramble completes a shot in traffic. [Order this photo]
The Caruthersville-Hayti semifinal came down to the closing 10 seconds of regulation.
Hayti led throughout the second half before falling behind 70-69 with 1:02 remaining. Caruthersville hit 3 of 6 free throws over the next 39 seconds to push its lead to 73-70 with 23 seconds left. Hayti's Kenyatte Brooks narrowly missed a game-tying trey with eight seconds left before Steven Rodgers knocked down back-to-back free throws for the Tigers with five seconds left to push the margin to the two possessions.
"They have so much more size than us," Smith said. "Once again it goes back to that heart. The boys just crashed the boards and we got the rebounds.
"We knocked down free throws," Smith added. "We knocked down free throws when we had to."
Hayti led the game 49-32 with less than two minutes left in the third quarter when Smith decided it was time to alter his defense.
"We just made a simple adjustment and got out of that full-court man and went to the 2-2-1 press," Smith said. "It's all on those boys. Their heart is unreal. We've been through a lot of things this year that are out of our control. These boys just keep fighting. I'm extremely proud of them and blessed to have them."
Hayti led 69-66 with 1:33 remaining in the fourth quarter before a 6-0 spurt gave Caruthersville its first lead of the second half at 72-69 with 42 seconds remaining.
Caruthersville's Rodgers calculated 13 of his team-high 24 points in the fourth quarter. He hit 9 of 13 free throws.
Jamal Johnson scored 12 of his 17 points in the fourth period for the Tigers. He hit both of his 3-pointers in the fourth quarter.
Coleman Tramble tallied a field goal in every quarter on his way to an 18-point scoring total for Caruthersville.
Maurion Newbill tallied a team-high 24 points for Hayti before fouling out with less than 30 seconds remaining.
Hayti's Demetrius Luster calculated 14 points. Brandon Burden and Frankie Burden Jr. each scored 11 points for Hayti.
Friday's championship will be a rematch of a December Bootheel Conference regular-season thriller.
Caruthersville (10-9) suffered an 80-74 overtime loss at Kennett (12-7) on Dec. 4.
"With what this team has been through this year it's awesome to be able to come to a tournament with all these good teams and play for a title," Smith said. "We've got Kennett, which is extremely good and extremely well-coached. But we are going to do what we can do."
View box scores from Thursday's varsity semifinals below:
Kennett's Cameron Harper completes a pass. [Order this photo]
No. 1 Kennett 79, No. 4 Portageville 68
PHS 20 13 12 23 - 68
KHS 11 16 16 36 - 79
PORTAGEVILLE (68) - Ben Story 9, Dion Foster 9, Dominique Walker 20, Robert Anderson 9, A.V. Banks 17, Caleb Gooch 4. FG 25, FT 14/20, F 22. (3-pointers: Banks 4. Fouled out: Anderson)
KENNETT (79) - Cameron Harper 2, Rantrell Caruthers 6, Akeem Nelson 5, Collin Smith 5, Kevonte Mitchell 41, Harold Weeden 8, Antonio Primer 10, Materion Jones 2. FG 23, FT 29/39, F 15. (3-pointers: Caruthers 1, Nelson 1, Mitchell 2. Fouled out: Primer)
Hayti's Austin Watkins (middle) fights for a basketball with Caruthersville's Coleman Tramble (right) and Kenneth Pittman (left).
No. 3 Caruthersville 75, No. 2 Hayti 73
CHS 11 16 15 33 - 75
HHS 9 22 20 22 - 73
CARUTHERSVILLE (75) - Jamal Johnson 17, Kenneth Pittman 7, Steven Rodgers 24, Coleman Tramble 18, Myron Woods 4, Jeremy Grant 5. FG 26, FT 20/35, F 22. (3-pointers: Johnson 2, Rodgers 1. Fouled out: Tramble, Grissom)
HAYTI (73) - Kenyatte Brooks 3, Maurion Newbill 24, Cedric Harris 2, Karnard Humes 4, Austin Watkins 4, Brandon Burden 11, Demetrius Luster 14, Frankie Burden Jr. 11. FG 28, FT 16/27, F 24. (3-pointers: Brooks 1. Fouled out: Newbill, Burden Jr., Watkins)