In front of a charged home crowd, Central gave its fans all they could ask for.
Everything, that is, except a win.
The Tigers (9-4) wowed the crowd with a pair of early dunks, made a big run early and came back from a late deficit to grab the lead, but ultimately Kennett (9-4) rallied with five straight points from Alando Edwards to beat the Tigers 57-56 in a SEMO Conference boys basketball game Friday.
"It's hard to lose this one," Central coach Derek McCord said.
Everything went right for the Tigers early when they pulled out to an 11-2 lead midway through the first quarter. Kennett got a couple of 3-pointers from Edwards and Tyree Goolsby with less than two minutes left in the quarter to cut the Tiger lead to two. The Indians pulled even at 14 before Anthony Harris converted a 3-point play to give the Tigers a 17-14 lead after one.
Kennett made a couple of early buckets in the second to grab their first lead at 18-17, but from there the Indians offense went cold. Central went down low to 6-foot-8 Scott Chestnutt, who had at least a six-inch height advantage on Kennett's tallest player. Chestnutt exploited the size advantage by scoring five points during Central's 11-0 run to end the half, including a dunk that capped the rally.
"I thought Scott played well," McCord said.
Central exchanged baskets with the Indians early in the third before Kennett made its run. With the Tigers struggling from the floor and Chestnutt out after picking up three fouls, Kennett used a late 10-0 surge to grab the lead after three quarters, 40-37. Goolsby was key in the run by scoring eight straight points, including two three-pointers.
"He really stepped up and showed tremendous senior leadership," McCord said of Goolsby.
With Chestnutt back to start the fourth quarter, Central went back to Chestnutt who helped to cut into the Kennett lead. Central traded baskets with the Indians early in the fourth and eventually tied the game with a couple of free throws by Ryan Delph.
With the lively Central crowd on its feet, the Tigers turned to Chestnutt once again. Chestnutt hit several strong fade-away jumpers to help the Tigers pull ahead by four with 1:20 left. Kennett coach Tim Turlington called a timeout after Chestnutt's jumper to rally his team.
Turlington said he was proud of the poise his team showed in the face of a heated crowd and a determined Tiger team.
"We kept our heads, that was the biggest thing for us," he said.
Out of the timeout Goolsby got the ball to Edwards, who drove by a couple of Tiger defenders and hit a layup. Edwards was fouled on the play and hit his free throw to bring the Indians to within one.
Central came down on offense and took a quick shot, giving the ball right back to Kennett.
McCord said his team's poor shooting, which included an 0-of-10 performance from 3-point range, hurt at the end.
"Offensively we played very poor," he said. "We just couldn't get shots to fall."
Edwards came up big again on the Indians' final possession. With time running down, Edwards got the ball low and drove for the game-winning layup. McCord called a time out with 6.4 seconds left, and the Tigers were able to get the ball to Chestnutt for a clean outside shot which just rimmed out.
"He had a good shot, it just didn't go in," Tiger forward Mitch Craft said of Chestnutt's final shot.
McCord said inexperience played a part in the Tigers' late collapse.
"Our youth showed tonight," he said. "We had chances to pull it out."
Goolsby led Kennett with a game-high 23 points. Edwards added 10 for the Indians.
"At the end Goolsby just broke us down," McCord said. "His dribble penetration was the story tonight. He got to the hole any time he wanted to."
Chestnutt led Central with 22 points. Delph added 11
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