Kennett hands Poplar Bluff road loss 66-59

Kennett’s Jackson Henfling and Poplar Bluff’s Luke Becker (32) fight for positioning in a varsity boys basketball game at Kennett Tuesday night.

KENNETT, Mo. — The Kennett Indians varsity boys basketball team proved it can play with the big boys yet again Tuesday night.

Kennett, a Class 3 program, outlasted the visiting Poplar Bluff Mules 66-59 for its fifth victory against a Class 4 or Class 5 team this season. Kennett had previously beaten Class 4 Farmington, Class 4 Notre Dame, Class 5 Jackson, and Class 4 Sikeston.

“We’ve really found some consistency lately,” Kennett coach Andrew Halford said. “So much of our success comes down to taking care of the basketball and rebounding on the defensive end. We’ve done a solid job of late on defense and rebounding the ball.”

Kennett, which had five players finish with at least eight points, struggled to find a hot hand early.

Class 5 Poplar Bluff allowed just two field goals in the first quarter. Jackson Henfling, who hit a 3 and a 2, recorded Kennett’s only points in the first quarter. Four Poplar Bluff players combined for their squad’s first 11 points. The Mules scored the first five points and the final six points of the first quarter to build an 11-5 lead by the start of the second quarter.

Kennett moved ahead 14-13 a couple of minutes later when Ben McMullan hit a 3-pointer with six minutes left in the first half.

“We had a slow start to the game tonight just like we did last week against Saxony,” Halford said. “That doesn’t bother us a whole lot because we feel like at some point we are going to have shots fall and get to the free-throw line.”

Poplar Bluff tied things up again at 16-all with 4:00 left in the first half when Joseph Hardimon hit his second 3-pointer of the night.

Things remained tied at 20-all in the final minute of the first half before Marsayv’aun Harrell recorded an old-fashioned 3-point play with 16 seconds left in the second quarter to put Kennett on top 23-20 at halftime.

The Indians led by single digits throughout the third quarter until McMullan and Kobe Gates hit consecutive 3-pointers to put Kennett on top 46-34 in the final minute of the third quarter.

“We lost some assignments in the second and third quarter,” Poplar Bluff coach Will Durden said. “We let them get some wide-open 3’s and they got it going. When you make a couple the gap gets a little bit wider and then the next two or three go in. They made six 3-pointers in the third quarter. You just cannot give up that many shots and expect to win.”

Kennett continued to lead by double digits at 49-38 at the end of the third quarter. The Indians increased its lead as large as 65-51 in the fourth quarter before Poplar Bluff cut the final margin to seven points.

Ben McMullan hit half of the Indians’ eight 3-pointers. He finished with a team-high 18 points.

“We’ve shot the ball really good from the perimeter this season,” Halford said. “I’ve told a bunch of people, ‘We rely on it a little bit too much at times.’ But when we get to knocking those down and playing with confidence the outside shot is a good weapon for our squad.”

Jackson Henfling, who also hit a pair of treys, added 15 points for the Indians. La’Quez Pullman tallied 10 points, Kobe Gates contributed nine points, Marsayv’aun Harrell tallied eight points, and Carter Maddox scored six points for Kennett.

“We’ve got to continue to have contributions from everyone,” Halford said. “I think Carter Maddox scored six points in the second quarter off of offensive rebounds. When him and others get into that six to nine-point range it makes us tough to defend.”

Hardimon paced Poplar Bluff with 17 points. Kendrick Brown also finished in double digits for the Mules with 13 points.

“We missed too many layups around the rim tonight,” Durden said. “They played us physical and we missed too many chip shots. If we would have made a couple of those maybe the game is a little closer. We’ve got to make sure we are concentrating on offense so we can make layups.”

Poplar Bluff (5-8) returns to action Friday when it hosts Cape Central. Poplar Bluff fell to Cape Central 58-47 in the first meeting on Dec. 9. Cape Central is ranked No. 7 in the latest Class 4 state poll.

“I think we’ve played six state-ranked teams in our last seven or eight games,” Durden said. “We’ve played good teams from Missouri, Tennessee, and Kentucky. We’ve played some great competition and been very close to walking away with a win. We are just missing a few assignments on defense and not taking advantage of situations on offense. We’ve got to keep working hard if we are going to get to where we need to be by the end of the year.”

Kennett (15-5), which is ranked No. 7 in the latest Class 3 state poll, is back in action Friday when it hosts state-ranked Charleston. Kennett fell to Charleston, which is ranked No. 3 in the latest Class 3 state poll, 81-63 in the third-place game of the SEMO Conference Tournament on Dec. 13 at Sikeston.

“Friday is the biggest game of the year so far,” Halford said. “That’s the way we are looking at it. We’ve lost to them and New Madrid County so they would both be ahead of us in the district seedings if we seeded it today. The seedings will be important when we get to that point but winning on Friday is more important than anything right now. If we are going to get out of our district we’ve got to find a way to get past Charleston."

Kennett 66, Poplar Bluff 59

PBS 11 9 18 21 - 59

KHS 5 18 26 17 - 66

POPLAR BLUFF (59) - Darian Combs 3, Jamarre Sellers 8, Kendrick Brown 13, Joseph Harmon 17, Chance Campbell 2, Jeridon Young 3, Josiah Kilgore 6, Luke Becker 5, Gage Rivers 2. FG 20, FT 16/25, F 19. (3-pointers: Combs 1, Brown 1, Hardimon 1; Fouled out: None).

KENNETT (66) - Carter Maddox 6, Kobe Gates 9, La’Quez Pulliam 10, Marsayv’aun Harrell 8, Jackson Henfling 15, Ben McMullan 18. FG 21, FT 16/26, F 16. (3-pointers: McMullan 4, Henfling 2, Gates 1, Harrell 1; Fouled out: None).

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