Kieren Nichols

Knoxville's Kieren Nichols (14) drives by a Newton defender.

KNOXVILLE — The Knoxville Panthers played host to the Eddyville-Blakesburg-Fremont Rockets Friday night in the final South Central Conference encounter of the season. A win would give the Panthers second place in the league and that is what they did. But it was not real easy as time and again the Rockets would get close to the lead. Finally in the final 2:30 the Panthers pulled away for a 73-61 victory.

The Rockets opened the scoring with a three ball from the corner by Brooks Moore, but that would be the last time they would see the lead. Luke Keitges answered with a three to tie the score and the Panthers were on their way. A breakaway by Kieren Nichols an inside bucket by Keitges, a conventional three-point play by Keegen Cox and a triple by Nichols opened up a 13-9 lead. A breakaway and another trey by Keitges offset an inside basket by the Rockets Ethan Davis for an 18-11 lead. EBF used a baseline jumper by Moore and a pair of free throws by Kyle Davis to narrow the gap to 18-15 going into the second quarter.

The Panthers moved out to a 28-21 lead in the second period behind triples by Mike Hudson and Nichols, but the Rockets answered with a pair of baskets and three free throws by Thane Alexander to get back to within four at 28-24. A trey by Noah Keefer and a pair of free throws by Jack Betrand put the lead at 33-24 with three minutes to go in the half. The Rockets were not done as they used an inside three-point play and a bucket by Ethan Davis and a slam by Moore to go into halftime trailing 37-33.

The Rockets came out of halftime with determination and quickly tied the score at 39-39 on a pair of buckets by Jared McCrea and one by Ethan Davis. But the Panthers went back to business and struck a 9-0 run with Nichols draining a three, Keitges knocking down a pair on the inside and Hixon adding a drive through bloody nose lane for a 48-39 lead. The Rockets were not able to gain any traction and the Panthers used a long ball by Nichols, an inside bucket by Keefer and a run out by Cale Peterson to take a 57-47 lead into the final stanza.

The Rockets had one more surge left as the fourth quarter opened. After Hixon canned a three to open the frame, the Rockets hit an 11-1 run to cut the deficit to 61-58. McCrea started the run with an inside three, Ethan Davis nailed a long shot, Moore flushed a slam and a free throw and Alexander finished the run with a mid-range jumper. That would be as close as the Rockets would get as Knoxville put the wraps on a SCC win.

Ethan Davis led the Rockets with 18 points while Moore knocked down 15 points and Alexander and McCrea chipped in with 12 and 10 points respectively.

“In parts of the game, we played well,” Rocket coach Travis Stout said. “Knoxville capitalized when we didn’t play well. I thought we had it going when we cut it to three late in the game, but we were not able to finish.”

Nichols led the Panthers with 22 points and completed a double-double with 11 assists. Keitges notched 18 points and hauled in 10 rebounds while Hixson had 11 points. Betrand tied for the rebound lead by grabbing 10 caroms off the glass.

The Panthers are 11-5 overall and they finish the SCC with a 10-2 record. The Rockets are 7-9 and 6-6 in SCC play.

EBF                          15           18           14           14           -               61

Knoxville                18           19           20           16           -               73

EBF scoring (FG FTM-FTA Pts) – Thane Alexander 5 2-6 12, Brooks Moore 6 1-2 15, Jared McCrea 4 2-4 10, Ethan Davis 8 1-1 18, Kyle Davis 2 2-2 6. Team 25 8-15 61. Three point goals (3) – Moore 2, E. Davis 1

EBF stats were not available at press time

Knoxville scoring (FG FTM-FTA Pts) – Luke Keitges 8 0-2 18, Cale Peterson 1 0-0 2, Kieren Nichols 9 0-0 22, Mike Hudson 2 0-0 5, Noah Keefer 3 0-0 8, Keegan Cox 1 1-2 3, Spencer Hixon 4 1-2 11, Jack Betrand 0 4-6 4. Team 28 6-11 73. Three point goals (11) – Nichols 4, Keitges 2, Keefer 2, Hixon 2, Hudson 1.

Knoxville rebounds (27) Keitges 10, Betrand 10, Cox 3, Hudson 2, Nichols 1, Emmet Schmidt 1

Knoxville steals (11) Hudson 4, Keefer 3, Keitges 2, Cox 1, Hixon 1.

Knoxville assists (20) – Nichols 11, Keitges 3, Schmidt 2, Keefer 2, Hudson 1, Cox 1.

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