BENTON -- If any doubters remain, the Kelly Hawks presented indisputable evidence that they are one of the area's premier boys basketball teams with a 64-62 win over the state-ranked Jackson Indians on Tuesday.
"This time of the year playing against a state-ranked Class 5 team like Jackson, which has such a great program and great coaches, this has got to be our top win of the year so far," said Kelly's first-year head coach Cory Johnson.
The red-hot Hawks, winners of six straight, avenged an earlier 63-61 overtime loss to the Indians in the SE Missourian Christmas Tournament final.
Leading the way for the Hawks were the talented Deason twins who combined for 53 of Kelly's point total.
The Deasons, Kendal and Kent, put on quite a show for the home fans. Kendal torched the Indians for 31, while Kent added 22, including six 3-
pointers -- three in the crucial fourth quarter.
Said Kendal Deason, "We knew coming in here that we could play with Jackson because of what we did in the Christmas tournament. We knew that on our homecourt we had an advantage and we just wanted to come out here, step up our games and give it our all."
On the Deasons, Johnson said, "I feel like I'm being repetitive, but that's how it's working. They're bringing it every night. Everybody's chipping in, but the emphasis is on those two. They're getting special attention (from opposition defenses), and yet, they're not letting that bother them. They're stepping up and making big plays night after night."
Going into the decisive fourth period, the Hawks trailed 48-44. Two consecutive Kendal Deason' baskets -- a 3- and a 2-pointer -- lifted Kelly to a 49-48 lead.
The lead see-sawed through much of the quarter as Jackson took a two-point advantage at 59-57.
Two free throws by Kendal Deason at the 1:10 mark and a huge 3-pointer by Kent Deason with 40 seconds remaining vaulted the Hawks ahead 62-59.
Then Jackson's stellar guard Jack Puisis, who paced the Indians with 25 points, drilled a 3-pointer from the top of the key to tie the contest at 62 with 25 seconds left.
With 6.8 seconds on the clock, Kendal Deason was fouled on a penetration to the basket. He calmly sank both free throws for the winning margin.
"They were defending us hard and we weren't getting really good looks, so I knew I had to create off the dribble," said Kendal, of his game-winning sequence.
Puisis, under heavy pressure, airballed the final Indian shot as the horn sounded.
Kelly (16-5) forged the early lead in the game.
Kent Deason's trey at the buzzer gave the Hawks a 17-11 first-quarter lead.
Jackson, on the strength of a 12-2 run to finish the second quarter, closed an 11-point gap. Puisis last-second 3-pointer sent the Indians into the halftime intermission down by one at 28-27.
The Indians, with 6-8 post Ryan Mirly having his way inside, led by as many as six before settling for a four-point lead as the third period expired.
Mirly scored 10 of his 23 points in the third quarter.
"We wanted to make sure we stayed behind him," said Johnson, whose tallest player is 6-2. "If you let him catch over the top or get it down too deep, he'll score. Once we realized that he was killing us on that, we tried to push him out a little further and it slowed down for us."
The loss snapped No. 6-ranked Jackson's four-game win streak as the Indians fell to 22-3.
But Jackson coach Darrin Scott drew a positive out of the hard-fought loss.
"We had another tough game, another close game," he said. "We've had a lot of those with a lot of endgame situations and this was another one and, hopefully, we can learn from that."
Added Scott, "Kent and Kendal just made big shots down the stretch. You've got to give them a lot of credit. We knew coming in, on their home floor, they were going to shoot the ball well and they shot the ball extremely well, especially in that fourth quarter.
Kelly, after a 1-3 start, has won 15 of 17 -- both two-point losses -- in an impressive run.
Kelly returns to the court at Bell City on Friday.