KENNETT -- The New Madrid County Central Eagles have gotten hot at the right time of the year.
On Tuesday night at the Kennett High School Gymnasium, the Eagles earned a 53-51 victory over the Kennett Indians that concluded the SEMO Conference schedule.
The Eagles (5-19) have won three consecutive games, including an exciting two-point victory over the Class 3, District 1 top-seed Portageville Bulldogs last Friday night.
For the Indians (6-17), 2005 has become a rebuilding year with the departure of three seniors out of the starting lineup.
The senior duo of Joseph Howell and Eugene Cooper fueled the Eagles with a pair of double-double performances. Howell netted a game-high 19 points and brought down 11 rebounds while Cooper tossed in 10 points and pulled down a game-leading 12 boards.
The Indians had three players to finish in double-figures in the losing effort. Jared Hughes sparked Kennett with 13 points while Dontavis Jones and Darius Shavers chipped in 12 and 11, respectively.
Howell and Cooper gave the Indians problems on the low block in the opening quarter, contributing to an early 11-3 advantage for the Eagles.
The Indians went on an 11-point scoring spurt that was ignited when Mario McGraw provided an excellent high-low pass to Jones to give Kennett a 14
-11 edge with two minutes left in the opening period.
Hughes stepped out from beyond the arc to drain a pivotal three that concluded the first quarter with Kennett on top 17-13.
The Indians expanded their lead to five points in the second quarter when Corderro Taylor scored consecutive baskets.
A broken-down inbounds play, allowed Taylor to get loose for an easy bucket as the Indians led 25-20 with 2:56 to go in the first half.
With an adjustment that the Indians made down low, the Eagles started utilizing aggressive screens to free up their shooters for easy jumpers.
Howell canned back-to-back jumpers and Quentin Binion found Ben Eakins for a pair of lay-ups in transition that sent the Eagles into the locker room leading 28-27.
The zone of New Madrid calmed the penetration down of Kennett and the offense became out of sync in the third quarter.
The Eagles built a six-point lead in the third, however, Jones' three trimmed the lead down to two points with 50 seconds left in the period.
Malcolm Long rushed the ball down the floor and found Cooper in the corner for an important trey that concluded the third quarter with the Eagles on top 42-37.
NMCC missed some critical foul shots in the fourth quarter, nevertheless, Long made one-of-two with 20 seconds remaining to keep the Eagles ahead by two.
The Indians had one final chance to tie the game or take the lead, but a pass was too high for Hughes to bring down as time expired.
New Madrid head coach Scott Kruse was proud of his team's effort and the victory gives the Eagles a spark going into next week's district tournament at Portageville.
"I was proud of our rebounding and Malcolm (Long) hit one free throw there to give us a cushion," Kruse said.
"I knew it was going to be a battle, I told our guys that we weren't just going to come in here and get the win. Right now, we are real excited around that school because we have won three in a row at the right time and we played Doniphan really well early on, so we feel like we have a chance."
Kennett head coach Sam Weaver responded to the Indians' efforts to get back in the game.
"I thought the kids played hard and gave a good effort to get back in the ballgame," Weaver said. "We have won some of those games and we have lost some, but that is the way it goes. I think New Madrid played well, and I think they have gotten better."
The Indians are building for their future as a lot of sophomores are seeing action on the floor.
"What we have been trying to do is play a lot of the younger guys who are going to be back next year," Weaver stated.
"Right now, that (young players) is about all we have. Hopefully, the young players will build on the experience they are getting."
The Indians have added a game to their schedule for Friday night. Kennett will travel to Doniphan to meet the Dons, which should be an interesting matchup.
"It is going to be a tough ballgame, they've got the big kid (Matt Rogers) inside," Weaver said. "He scores well, and he is a pretty savvy player. They (Doniphan) have got a young ballclub, but they play well and they have a good back court. They are smart, they take care of the basketball and it will be a tough ballgame at their place."
Shooting percentages were pretty even in the contest with the Indians netting 19-of-41 attempts (46 percent) while the Eagles shot 45 percent (21-of-49).
The junior varsity Indians shot lights out in the first half of their 60-32 victory over the Eagles Tuesday night.
Sophomore Chris Drake netted a game-high 22 and Corderro Taylor chipped in 12.
New Madrid was led by Dontrey Washington with 12 points and Patrick Guest with 10.
Kennett led 19-7 after the opening period, 39-19 at the intermission and 50
-25 going into the final quarter.
KENNETT -- The Kennett Lady Indians concluded their 2004-2005 home schedule with a hard-earned 55-49 victory over New Madrid Tuesday night.
Tori Ratliff and Monica Duckworth paced the Lady Indians with a game-high 17 points.
New Madrid was led by Jasmine Beas with 14 and Tsia Matthews with 10.