EDDYVILLE – Claire Mathews had to know just one thing on Friday night.
"What's up with the conference leaderboard?"
The wooden board that normally shows the up-to-date South Central Conference basketball and wrestling standings is currently blank at Eddyville-Blakesburg-Fremont High School. While their name might not be up on the board, the Redettes let their play on the court do the talking as the current SCC leaders remained perfect on the season, improving to 8-0 on the season and 4-0 in the conference with a 72-41 win over EBF.
"I'm always a little nervous before games anyway, but now that we're at the top of the conference, we know teams are out for blood," Mathews said. "We've just got to play our hardest like we know we can. We've got a deep bench that can help do that for us."
Mathews and Mickey Stephens again led the way for the Redettes, combining for 53 points while exchanging the game's individual scoring lead throughout the second half. Mathews edged Stephens out with 27 points while Stephens turned defense into offense, collecting a game-high seven steals four in the second half that led directly to points on the other end.
"I can read where the ball is going pretty well. It's one of my favorite things to do," Stephens said. "I love to tip the passes out and start a fast break the other way where either I can take it in or I can start something for my teammates."
EBF (4-7, 2-3 SCC) was able to hang with Centerville for most of the first half, scoring seven straight points late in the first quarter with a pair of 3-pointers by Emalee Davis and Brooke Shafer that briefly gave the Rockets an 11-10 lead. Mathews answered within seconds inside with a go-ahead basket before Stephens closed out the first quarter with a steal, leading to a free throw that sent Centerville into the second quarter with a slim 13-11 lead.
"This is our fourth game of the week and our third straight on the road. We've faced some quality programs this week in Fairfield and Knoxville. EBF is always a tough place to play, too," Centerville head coach Nic Belloma said. "It was a little sluggish at the start. We want the game to be up-tempo. I felt like we were going up against the set zone too much early on."
Belloma used the size of the Redettes to begin pushing the advantage on the scoreboard. Kyla Moore and Claire George scored on offensive rebounds to counter the Rockets, who pulled within 21-17 after Whitney Klyn scored inside on a pass from Sarah Schutt.
Centerville (8-0, 4-0 SCC) would scored 15 unanswered points to open a 19-point lead late in the first half. Stephens opened the run by rattling in a 3-pointer and would join Mathews in scoring all 15 points with 10 points coming in transition off three steals and a pair of defensive rebounds.
"We know we can score, but defense is a big thing for us," Mathews said. "I was pretty excited to play. It was another chance to prove why we are the top team in the conference right now.
"We started off pretty slow in the first quarter, but we got it dialed in during the second quarter," Stephens added.
Friday's win capped a busy week for the Redettes with four games in the span of seven days. After rolling past Moravia in the only home game of that stretch last Saturday, Centerville scored hard-fought road wins at Fairfield and Knoxville with the latter, a 60-52 win, snapping a 35-game winning streak for the Panthers.
"As a senior, it was a really good feeling. I've never beaten Knoxville in basketball, so to beat them in my final season ever playing there was big for us," Mathews said.
"It was really exciting. Very exciting," Stephens added.
Davis and Schutt led EBF with eight points apiece in the loss. The Rockets will open next week hosting Albia looking to snap a five-game losing streak on Tuesday night, the same night Centerville returns home to host Davis County seeking to hold their position as the top team in the SCC.
"The first half of the season was so tough. We only got four games in before Christmas break," Belloma said. "We've not played four games in seven days. We're just trying to keep our kids mentally focused. Our kids have done a really nice job. We're 8-0 on the season and 6-0 on the road. We feel really good about ourselves, but at the end of the day we're worried about one game at a time."