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Knox County Eagles Repeat As Boy’s District Champions

By David Sharp

The adage of Every Dog Has It’s Day rang true during the March 7, 2009 Class 2 District 14 boy’s championship game at Marceline. Each team had a successful stretch. Knox County dominated the first quarter along with much of the second, grabbing a 42-21 halftime lead.
Marceline took advantage of KCHS foul trouble, righted their ship and roared back within four points in the last minute of the game. The Eagles matched the Black Rage heart with two clutch steals and enough scoring to claim their second consecutive district title by a 68-64 final score.
The Lady Eagles won back to back district championships under current Green City Superintendent Donnie Campbell in the early 1990’s. Jesse Crawford’s Eagles matched that feat on the boys’ side in 2008 and 2009.
“It’s unbelievable. We have had to work so hard to get back to this level,” said Eagle senior all-stater Dennis Dent. “The way they came back drove us to work even harder and come together as a team. This is the greatest feeling I have ever had playing basketball.”
Knox County won their 20th game on the season with seven defeats. The Eagles came out with the same intensity and execution they displayed in their previous game against North Shelby.
The Eagles dominated the lane in the first half. The Tigers (11-17) tossed four three point field goals into the bucket, comprising over half their opening two period point total.
Sixth seeded Marceline upset Milan and second seeded Putnam County in similar fashion. The Eagles scored the first 14 points. Dennis Dent drove the hole and tossed in a three pointer. Justin Reeves hammered home a rebound for a 12 point lead with 4:10 to play in the first period.
Mitchel Penn connected on two free throws for a 14-0 cushion with 3:20 on the clock. Eric Comstock got the Tigers on the board, scoring the host club’s first four points.
Brett Bryant sank a two at the 2:15 mark. Dennis Dent swished another home run ball for a 21-5 lead at the 1:35 mark of period one. The Eagles sprang to the first break with a 23-5 lead.
Marceline sank three second quarter home run balls to stay within a 21 point halftime deficit. Knox County dominated the glass, holding an 18-9 rebound edge and a 30-12 lead with 4:48 remaining in the first half. Lucas Hudson finished a Mitchel Penn feed for a 35-18 KCHS lead with 1:50 to play until halftime.
Kyle Bixenman sank a three ball paring the Eagle lead to 35-21.  Knox County closed the first half with the final seven unanswered points for a 42-21 halftime lead.
The Eagles came out of the dressing room much the same as the first two quarters. Knox County fans howled when Justin Reeves was whistled for his fourth foul on a rebound at the 5:30 mark of the third quarter. The Eagles led 49-25 at the time.
Marceline appeared to gain confidence. The Tigers tossed in two corner jumpers, trimming the Eagle cushion to 49-29 with 4:17 showing on the clock.
Lucas Hudson found Mitchel Penn, snapping a six point Marceline streak to a 51-31 lead at the 3:05 point of the third period.
The Eagles went from the hunter to the hunted. Parker Dixson drew Tiger post player Jeff Floray’s fourth foul at the 1:20 mark of period three. Dixson sank a free throw for a 54-35 Eagle lead. Floray and Justin Reeves finished the game with four fouls each.
Kyle Bixenman got the Tigers under the 20 point deficit with a fast break bucket at the 25 second mark of the third quarter. The Tigers outscored Knox County 18-12 in the third quarter and trailed 54-39 entering the fourth period.
The Tigers clawed within 13 points early in the fourth quarter. Justin Reeves took the basketball away from two Tiger defenders and scored on an offensive rebound for a 60-45 Eagle lead with six minutes to play in the game.
   Nico Bryte stepped up and scored his only five points of the game in the last five minutes. Dennis Dent answered with a three point play at the five minute mark. Knox County led 63-50 after Bryte canned a three with 4:25 to play in the game.
Marceline senior Chris McGlothlin sank a free throw trimming the Eagle edge to 63-51 with 4:12 on the clock. McGlothlin recovered from emergency colon surgery in January to finish his career in the district title game.
Chris McGlothlin is the son of Knox County R-I basketball standout and assistant coach Brian McGlothlin. His grandfather Don McGlothlin is a long time Edina resident. Brian McGlothlin was a key member of the Eagles’ 1971 boys’ district championship basketball team.
“I was really proud of our guys,” said Marceline coach Dan Nagel. “I think it was 41-19 down the home stretch. We did not quit. Our inexperience showed the way we started. We haven’t been here before with the atmosphere and the noise. Our shots weren’t falling.”
More than three quarters of the West side of the gym were filled with red clad Knox County supporters. Those not knowing about the Marceline Black Rage tradition got a taste in the last three minutes. The Eagles made plays to win.
See Districts, Page 12
 “We got in a big hole early,” said Coach Nagel. “Unfortunately it was a hole we couldn’t quite get out of. I was proud of our guys for battling back the way we did. We put ourselves in that hole. They earned the win. Dennis Dent is a once in a lifetime, special high school player.”
Jordan Tibbs pulled down a tough rebound and pulled Marceline within ten points with three minutes on the clock. Mitchel Penn answered with two free throws at the 2:48 mark for a 65-53 Eagle lead. Marceline closed the game on an 11-3 run.
Eric Comstock cashed in an Eagle turnover for a three pointer and a 65-58 edge with 1:50 to play in the game. Jeff Floray trimmed the lead back to a two possession game with a pair of Marceline free throws with 1:28 remaining. The Tigers trailed 65-60.
Knox County could not get a shot to fall. Jeff Floray rebounded and fired the ball down the court. Knox County guard Brett Wilkerson soared half the distance across the court and stole the pass with 65 seconds to play in the game.
“I read the pass well and got the steal,” said Brett Wilkerson. “We came out with real intensity. In the third quarter, we came out flat,” said the Eagle senior guard.
“It shouldn’t have been that close of a game. They came back. We hit a few free throws at the end to become two time district champions. It feels so good for our seniors to be the most decorated class to walk the floors of Knox County High School. We really appreciate what the community has done for us,” said Brett Wilkerson.
   Play intensified as time ran down. The Eagles had three good shots at the bucket. None would go down. Justin Reeves made a diving save to retain possession with 53 seconds to play.
Marceline took their final timeout with 41 seconds showing on the clock. Mitchel Penn stepped in front of the inbound pass and scored a critical KCHS basket. We got back to back district championships. Marceline is a great team. They stuck with it and kept their heads,” said Mitchel Penn. “It’s amazing,” said Penn when asked to describe the feeling of victory.
The teams battled to the final buzzer. Chris McGlothlin sank a jumper with 12 seconds to play in the game for a 67-62 Eagle lead. Dennis Dent hit a free throw two seconds later. Marceline sank a shot at the horn for the 68-64 final score.
Mitchel Penn and Dennis Dent accepted the district championship trophy from Marceline Athletic Director Deacon Windsor. Knox County fans celebrated the victory.
Knox County out rebounded the Tigers 35-21. Both sides turned the ball over 12 times unofficially. The Eagles had a 7-1 steal advantage. Knox County dished out ten assists to five for Marceline. The Eagles blocked five shots to one for the Tigers.
The Eagles earned the margin of victory with a 16 of 23 performance at the free throw line, good for 70%. Marceline was 4-6 from the line for 67%. Jeff Floray led the Tigers with 15 points and eight rebounds. Jordan Tibbs tossed in 14 points. Eric Comstock was in double figures with 13 points.
Dennis Dent and Mitchel Penn shared game scoring honors with 18 points each. Dennis Dent pulled down ten rebounds. Mitchel Penn had a pair of steals and assists along with three boards.
Justin Reeves scored 12 points with a game high13 rebounds. Brett Wilkerson recorded three assists, two steals and seven points. Lucas Hudson scored eight points with three rebounds and an equal number of assists.
Parker Dixson scored three points. Brett Bryant scored two points with three boards. Knox County travels to Moberly for their Class 2 Sectional. The Eagles will take on defending state champion Harrisburg at 6PM on Wednesday, March 11.
 “Marceline did this all three games in the district,” commented Knox County coach Jesse Crawford. “They had a ten to 12 point deficit in the second half and came back into it.”
Coach Crawford explained the second half from the Eagle perspective. “We went into stall mode and got timid. We didn’t execute down the stretch. We started stalling and not doing the things we do.”
“We know we have to get better. Harrisburg is going to come out in a full court man to man (defense) for 32 minutes,” said Coach Crawford of the upcoming Sectional game. “We know we are going to work hard in practice on our press breaker and getting our half court set or we are going to be in trouble.”
“We had one starter back. Not too many people would have thought we would win 20 games this year. To be 20-7 with a district championship gives us a great sense of accomplishment. It is a great feeling.”
“We came out of the gate like we always do. It is kind of our M.O. We played as hard as we could and built a lead,” said Jesse Crawford. “We have six excellent seniors. They carried us through. This is a mentally tough class. We have all the intentions of giving Harrisburg everything we have got.”
“We are happy. We are thrilled to put another banner up on the wall. At the same time, we know we have got bigger fish to fry.”