BENTON -- A young New Madrid County Central Lady Eagles team stayed pretty competitive with the more experienced state-ranked Kelly Lady Hawks.
Kelly, ranked No. 5 in Missouri's Class 3 poll, defeated district foe NMCC 66-52 on Thursday.
"I've got two freshmen and a sophomore out there at times and there's no district experience with that lineup, so this was a good game for us," said NMCC coach Lance Tollison. "Kelly's a good ball team and they should be the No. 1 seed in our district."
In a turnover-filled first quarter -- 11 by Kelly, eight by NMCC -- neither team generated much offense early. Kelly led 5-2 at the 4:30 mark, then the Eagles scored five straight to take a 7-5 lead.
Back came the Lady Hawks with an 11-4 run in the last 3 minutes for a 16-11 first-quarter advantage.
Kelly (17-4) opened the second quarter with a 12-3 run to extend its lead to 28-14. But the Eagles refused to lay down, battling back to a nine-point deficit, 34-25, as the half expired.
Freshman guard Shamieka Williams led the mini-rally with nine of the Eagles' final 11 points. Williams, who scored a game-high 22 points, finished on two consecutive assists from point guard Jasmine Beasley then converted a conventional 3-point play off her steal and two more free throws.
"We knew the pressure was coming and we handled it o.k.," said Tollison. "A few breaks early and it's a different ballgame. We missed a couple of open shots early that might have given us a little confidence boost, but that's just the nerves of the young ones I've got out there."
Williams scored 14 first-half points and Kelly's sophomore post Debra Hall led the Hawks with 13 in the half to go with nine rebounds.
Hall finished with a double-double, scoring a team-high 19 points and snatching 11 rebounds.
The Hawks, displaying selfless passing, came out blazing in the third quarter to up their lead to 57-33.
"I told the girls to just be patient, move the ball around and share the basketball," said Kelly coach Rod McQuerter. "It's not who scores, sometimes the most important part is who makes the pass."
Six Hawks, led by Brittany Ponder's seven, contributed scoring in the 23-
While the Hawks turned up the offense, they also held the Eagles to just eight points on the defensive end.
Trailing by 24 going into the final quarter, the Eagles never quit. They outscored the Hawks 19-9 in the fourth to keep the final score fairly respectable.
Senior Heavenly Wren and freshman Jasmine Flennoy fueled the Eagles' late push with six fourth-quarter points apiece.
"We've had some good games lately, then we kind of fell flat the other night against Delta," said Tollison, "so I was really wanting to see us come out and play with some intensity. And that's what we did.
"We did some good things and kind of got back to the way we were playing the last three or four ballgames."
NMCC (9-13) had been impressive recently with a victory over Sikeston, a well-played 70-62 loss to Scott County Central, then following the rout at Delta, a to-the-wire two-point loss to Cape Central.
Backing up Williams' 22 points were Wren with 12 and Flennoy with 10 for the Eagles.
Kelly, led by Hall's 19, got scoring from nine different players. Ponder chipped in with 15 and Nikki Weiney added 10.
"It was a good game for our girls, a big district win," said McQuerter. "Every district opponent is very tough and we don't take any team for granted. Coach Tollison has those girls playing pretty well right now and I'm very proud of the way our girls came out. Our freshman and sophomores played well, as did our juniors and seniors."
Said Tollison, "The intensity level was like a district game and that's what I wanted the girls to experience."
Kelly visits Scott Central in a varsity only contest on Monday at 6 p.m. while NMCC travels to Broseley to meet Twin Rivers on Monday, also at 6 p.m.
Kelly defeated NMCC 33-18 in the junior varsity contest.
The Eagles' JoAnna McDaniel and the Hawks' Londyn Backfisch paced their respective teams with 10 points apiece.
ORAN -- The Oran Eagles, behind Tiffany Glastetter's 25 points, rolled over the East Prairie Eagles 74-21 in a Scott-Mississippi Conference game on Thursday.
Oran (12-8, 3-2 in conference) led 20-4 after one quarter, then 39-13 at the half.
Erica Michelsen was scoring runner-up for Oran with 10 points. Lyndsay Witherspoon led East Prairie with eight points.
Oran hosts Risco tonight at 6 p.m.