(Photo by Brent Shipman, Staff)
BENTON -- Kelly fans can breathe easy, the streak is finally over.
After enduring loss after agonizing loss, culminating in 29 total and dating back to Feb. 2009, the Hawks finally put one in the win column against visiting Woodland Friday night.
Led by sophomore post player Gabe Felter's 23 points and 12 rebounds, Kelly kept pressure on the Cardinals all night, slowly building a 10-point lead by the fourth quarter before securing the 78-66 win.
"You can tell just from the atmosphere around here that everybody is excited about getting that first win on the board," first-year Kelly head coach Josh Eftink said. "Hopefully it's something the kids can build off of and make something happen with the next game and carry it on over."
Playing a back-and-forth first half where the two squads stayed within seven points of each other the whole way, the Hawks went on a 5-2 run in the final 1:10 of the second quarter to pull out a 35-31 lead going into the break.
Kelly got a scare, however, when the Cardinals came out of the half with Neil Johnson putting in a layup before Martin Williams connected on a 3-pointer to take the lead in the opening minutes of the third at 36-35.
After coming back to take the lead, only to have Woodland tie it up again at 42 midway through the frame, Kelly went on their most important run of the night that put them on top for good.
Leading off the drive with a two-point shot to retake the lead, Garret Alsup started what was a 7-0 Hawks run with Felter contributing the other five points, with two baskets in the paint while adding a free throw to make it a 49-42 ball game.
Kelly was aided greatly as the game went on by their ability to get two of Woodland's top players, Nick Deck and Johnson, in foul trouble early which limited their time on the floor.
"Coach told us before the game, 'keep Neil off the boards, keep a hand in his face and we have a chance to win this game,'" Felter said. "I think we went out and tried our best at that and we were successful.
"We got two of their best players to foul out and that always helps."
Able to build the above mentioned 10-point lead going into the fourth, the Hawks were able to force the Cardinals to spend most of the fourth quarter fouling while going 13-of-16 at the line in the frame to keep distancing themselves from Woodland.
Up by 12 with just over a minute left to play, Kelly was able to start playing ball control knowing the game was in hand.
After Woodland's Lance Yount added one last Cardinals basket in the final seconds, Kelly's Michael Kuykendall landed one last basket in the paint at the buzzer, as Hawk players and fans started celebrating.
"We slowed it down a lot better than we usually do," senior Stosh Lovett said. "We did have a couple of points where we kind of sped up a little too much, but other than that we had a good solid game.
"After all those losses, this win feels good. Feels really good."
Scoring 20 of his 23 points in the second half, Felter was glad to see his team respond in a game that the Hawks knew they had a good shot of winning.
"I think a lot of that was some of our older guys stepped up tonight," Felter said. "We haven't really had a leader yet, but we kind of had some people step up tonight.
"A few bench players came in and did their jobs. It was just an all-around team win."
Some of the other players coming up big for the Hawks include Trey Drury and Ian Householder, who each put up 13 points. Both also had three steals while Drury contributed seven rebounds and Householder had five assists.
Now at 1-4, Kelly will try to make it two in a row when they travel to Puxico Tuesday, where they will play the Indians with ninth grade action starting at five.
WOODLAND (66) -- Nick Deck 5, Carson Gemeinhardt 7, David Gray 6, Martin Williams 19, Clayton Olmetti 2, Neil Johnson 19, Lance Yount 7. FG 24, FT 11-18, F 26. (3-pointers: Gemeinhardt 1, Williams 6. Fouled out: Deck, Johnson).
KELLY (78) -- Stosh Lovett 8, Trey Drury 13, Aaron Grainger 4, Sawyer Elfrink 2, Michael Kuykendall 5, Ian Householder 13, Garrett Alsup 8, Jerret Nicoson 2, Gabe Felter 23. FG 27, FT 22-38, F 18. (3-pointers: Lovett 2. Fouled out: none).