Young Rockets hold off Big Reds

Eddyville-Blakesburg-Fremont freshman Brooke Moore (14) pulls up for a shot while being defended by Centerville junior Isaac Byrd (23) on Friday during a South Central Conference boys basketball contest at Eddyville.

EDDYVILLE – He's a freshman.

And he's pretty darn good.

Brooke Moore followed up a career-high 26-point effort three nights earlier against Chariton by coming up with three very pivotal points late in the fourth quarter on Friday night for the Eddyville-Blakesburg-Fremont boys basketball team. Holding on to a slim 32-31 edge of the hungry Centerville Big Reds, Moore found the ball in his hands in the paint off a pass from senior teammate Thane Alexander.

Moore, a freshman, showed the poise of upperclassman taking the ball in for a lay-up while being fouled with 2:08 to play. With the free throw, EBF had a two-possession lead back as young players again made huge plays for the Rockets in a hard-fought 41-32 South Central Conference win.

"It just kind of felt normal. It's just basketball," Moore said. "I love it. There's nothing more I'd rather do than play at the highest level where I can show people what I've got and show everyone what our team is all about."

Moore wasn't the only freshman to step up late for the Rockets. Jesse Cornelison sank all eight shots from the free throw line, including four in the final 84 seconds to help EBF finish the game on a 6-0 run after Merrick Mathews pulled Centerville within three with under two minutes left.

"There's a lot of things that we need to know about this team," EBF head coach Travis Stout said. "We know we can win games when we're playing at a fast tempo. We didn't know if we could win a game where we're grinding it out in the 30s and 40s against a team that's taking the air out of the ball. That was a test that, frankly, we hadn't seen yet. If teams are going to do that, we need to know we can be successful."

Centerville showed resiliency in their third road game of the week and fourth game since returning from the holiday break last Saturday with an overtime loss at home to Moravia. After giving up 15 straight points in the first half while struggling to find an offensive rhythm, Mathews provided the Big Reds with a spark by hitting consecutive 3-pointers, kicking off a 12-2 run that cut an 11-point EBF lead down to 32-31.

"Our offense was stagnant beyond stagnant at times," Centerville head coach Tom Hill said. "We're still a work in progress. This was a long week for us. I was happy for the guys to show up all three nights that we played (on the road) this week. We had some tough competition, some tough places to go. I love these kids. They're good kids. As long as they hang with us, we'll keep plugging away."

After trailing by as many as 13 points, Centerville (0-7, 0-3 SCC) had a chance to tie the game at the foul line. Trayton Smith missed the potential tying free throw with 2:29 left, leading to EBF's ensuing possession that resulted in Moore's three-point play 21 seconds later.

"Brooke was being very active on offense. He was able to get into a little seam against that zone," Stout said. "He's a good shooter and he's fearless. That was a big shot."

Ethan Davis led EBF (3-3, 3-2 SCC) with 11 points, nine rebounds and four blocked shots. Mathews paced Centerville with a game-high 15 points, sinking a trio of 3-pointers in the contest.

Centerville returns home on Tuesday night to host Davis County while EBF will welcome in Albia. The Blue Demons will carry the SCC lead into the contest after knocking off Knoxville, 71-55, on Friday in Monroe County.

"We're excited to have the opportunity to go against them. They create a lot of challenges in terms of match-ups, but our guys will be ready for the challenge," Stout said.

— Scott Jackson can be reached at sjackson@ottumwacourier.com. Follow him on Twitter@CourierScott.

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