By David Sharp
Years of frustration turned to joyous celebration around 7:30PM on Saturday, March 1 2008 when the Knox County R-I Eagle boys nailed down the MSHSAA Class 2, District 6 championship at Moberly by a 56-49 final score. The Eagles (19-9) prevailed over a talented, game Westran Hornet team.
The Eagles came out on a mission. Knox County played some of the most, if not the most intense basketball Northeast Missouri has seen this season in the first quarter.
Dennis Dent answered a seal breaking Westran bucket with a home run ball at the 6:12 mark of the first quarter. The Eagles scored 11 of the next 13 points and led 14-4 on Dennis Dent's bucket with 3:07 showing on the first quarter clock.
Daniel McMahon and Zach Parrish fueled the Knox County run with momentum shifting three pointers. All Lewis and Clark conference forward Roscoe Robinson answered with a Hornet bucket with 2:48 to play in the first quarter.
Shane Clouse powered home an offensive rebound for a 16-6 lead with 2:02 showing on the first quarter clock. The Hornets pulled within an 18-8 deficit at the 42 second mark. Lucus Hudson sent the Eagles racing back to the huddle with a key three pointer with two seconds remaining in the first period.
Knox County played great team defense, especially in the first half. Knox County fans roared as their team led 21-8 entering the first break.
The young Hornets showed their character and battled back after taking the Eagles best shot in the first quarter. Bryce Enyart answered a Dennis Dent bucket with a three point play seconds into the second quarter.
Dennis Dent stepped out and nailed a three pointer for a 26-11 lead with 6:35 to play in the second quarter. Roscoe Robinson blocked a Knox County shot, took the basketball the length of the court for a spectacular driving basket and a 26-17 Eagle lead at the 5:36 mark of the second period.
Robinson took over the game for a brief period in the second quarter. The 6'3" junior took a rebound the length of the court for another driving field goal at the 4:07 mark of the first half. Mitchel Penn stemmed the rising Hornet tide with a KCHS bucket with 3:21 until halftime. Knox County led 28-17.
Roscoe Robinson and Cory Shultz traded field goals around the two minute mark. Knox County took a 31-19 lead to the locker room.
See Championship, Page 12
Westran (14-12) came at the Eagles with a full court offensive game, and outscored Knox County 19-13 during the third quarter. Cory Shultz canned a three pointer at the 4:28 mark of the third quarter for a 38-25 Eagle lead.
The Hornets responded with a 13-6 run, cutting the Eagle lead to 42-38 on Bryce Enyard' steal and deuce with 1:15 showing on the third quarter clock. Knox County came up with momentum changing plays at the right times through out the contest.
Dennis Dent pulled down a rebound and scored with 40 seconds to play in period three, extending the Knox County edge back to 44-38 where the score stood going into the fourth quarter.
Westran kept fighting until the end. The Hornets cut the Eagle lead to 44-40. Daniel McMahon stepped up and nailed a key three pointer for a 47-40 KCHS advantage with 7:10 to play in the game.
Mitchel Penn grabbed a rebound and drew a foul around the six minute mark. Penn sank one of two free throws for a 48-42 lead.
The Eagles spread the court around the four minute mark leading 48-42. The teams traded points to a 52-46 Knox County lead with 1:46 between the Eagles and the district six championship.
Knox County missed three of six fourth quarter free throws. The Eagles missed a charity toss leading 52-46 with 64 seconds showing on the clock. Westran rebounded the basketball, but threw it away.
The Eagles ran their lay up game. Daniel McMahon cut to the rim and stuck the dagger at the 46 second mark. Knox County rebounded a missed free throw leading 54-46.
Daniel McMahon sank two Knox County free throws for a 56-46 lead with 20.8 seconds to play in the game. Roscoe Robinson sank a Westran three pointer near the end of the game making the final score 56-49 in favor of 2008 Class 2 District 6 champion Knox County.
Knox County cheerleading co-captain Kasey Douglas presented the first place trophy to senior Daniel McMahon. Knox County fans had their first boys' district championship in 37 years. The Eagles played 37 games over the summer and worked hard in the weight room preparing for that moment.
"We did it," said KCHS junior Dennis Dent. "We all believed we could do this. We just had to come out here and execute. It just feels awesome."
"We had to make plays to win this ball game. Roscoe Robinson doesn't make many mistakes," said Dent. "He is a great player. We had to use our ability to stop him. We were going to win this game on defense, not on offense."
Dennis Dent scored 20 points and pulled down 15 Knox County rebounds. Roscoe Robinson scored a game high 24 Westran points. Bryce Enyard tossed in 16 points. Freshman Tycie Linneman scored the remaning six Westran points.
All three Hornet scorers are underclassmen. Westran shots that fell during the Hornet's overtime semi-final win over top seeded Paris did not go down for the most part against Knox County.
The Hornets took the ball to the hole and slowly closed the gap in the second half. Knox County made their first quarter lead stand up with key plays on both ends of the court.
The Eagles made seven of their 12 free throw attempts. Knox County tossed in seven three pointers and allowed none defensively. Westran was perfect from the free throw line. Knox County played good defense without fouling most of the game and limited the Hornets to six free throws on the night.
"(Westran) came out and played hard. They had nothing to lose," said Knox County senior Daniel McMahon. "They were the underdog. They gave us a heckuva battle. We came out on fire. I think we wanted it more. We hit those triples at the start."
Daniel McMahon was in double figures with 15 points. Cory Shultz connected for eight Eagle points. Shane Clouse scored four points. Zach Parrish, Mitchel Penn and Lucus Hudson scored three points each.
The Eagles take on Harrisburg (24-5) in the first round of the state playoffs at the March 5, 2008 Hannibal Sectional with a 7:45PM start. Westran and Harrisburg take the court at 6PM in the girls' Sectional contest.
By moving on to the Moberly quarterfinals, Knox County would hang their first 20 game win banner since their 25-2 season in 1978.
Harrisburg would finish with a 24-6 record. The 1970-71 Eagles concluded their season 24-6 after losing to Montgomery County 81-65 in the first round of the state playoffs.
Future NFL player Terry Joyce, Bob Sandknop and Derald Riekeberg were all Clarence Cannon Conference players in 1971.
Current Knox County residents Randy Perry, David Brown, David Couch, Doug Hagerla and manager Kent Hagerla were part of the 1971 Eagles. Coaches were Hall of Famer Kenneth Roberts and long time Knox County coach Dick Robinson.
"Westran has everybody back next year," said Knox County coach Jesse Crawford. "Coach (Scott) Floyd does a great job with them. They may be one of the top teams in the state next year."
"We are four wins away from a state championship," said Crawford. "That was our goal at the start of the season and it still is. We have worked hard for this. We played 37 summer games. We have had guys play AAU basketball."
"We were hungry after last season. Our community was hungry to win," said Coach Crawford. "We knew after we got up 13 (points) that if we didn't put the hammer down, they were going to make a game of it. They kept battling to the end. We hit our free throws down the stretch. Our senior guards took care of the basketball."
"We did not panic. Daniel McMahon had a great fourth quarter," commented Crawford. "Dennis Dent has 55 double-doubles in 77 varsity basketball games. He shoots 45% from three (point range). It will be great to have him back next year."
"There isn't really any way to describe this feeling," said Knox County senior Cory Shultz. "Our community has waited 37 years for this. We were able to keep Roscoe Robinson off the boards. We made shots when we needed to."
"When you get out and play in front of 3000 or 4000 people, that motivation comes pretty easy," said Jesse Crawford of the Eagles first quarter surge. "Kudos to our seniors and to the program. We have put in a lot of time and effort."
Coach Crawford answered a question regarding what was the difference in the Knox County 2008 district championship game.
"Our intensity out of the gate. We came out with the mentality that nobody was going to take this from us. We are taking it for ourselves. I think that mentality is what drove us home to the end."