GULFPORT-- Former Gulfport basketball coach Danny Grieves made his return to Bert Jenkins Gymnasium a successful one on Wednesday night.
Grieves, the coach at Metamora, Ill., High School, directed the Redbirds to a 49-37 victory over host Gulfport in the championship game of the Admiral Hardwood Club Holiday Classic.
Bradley University signee Nate Kennell fired in a game-high 24 points in a game that Metamora (12-1) controlled from the midway point of the first quarter. Grieves is in his fifth season at Metamora after coaching at Gulfport.
"It's a great feeling, all the credit goes to the kids,'' Grieves said. "We had a good gameplan. We knew Gulfport had a good team. They ran it to a tee. They (Gulfport) average 11 offensive boards a game. That was one of our keys for the game was to keep them off the glass.''
The game was tied at nine all with 4:11 left in the first quarter when Metamora went on a 16-0 run.
Gulfport's Raekwon Murphy snapped the run with 4 minutes left before halftime, but Metamora led 25-11 and would go into halftime with a 29-13 advantage.
The Admirals (13-6) fought back, narrowing the lead to 40-29 after three quarters, then cut it to 40-34 on Keevon Oney's 3-pointer with 5:49 left in regulation. But at this point, Kennell showed why he is a Division I signee. He hit a short jumper, then followed with a 3-pointer to push the lead back to 44-34.
After Carl Terrell scored on a putback, Kennell drained a 3-pointer for a 47-36 lead with 1:11 left.
"When the game gets close, we put it in Nate's hands,'' Grieves said. "Nate is an awful good player. He's one of those players that comes through when the chips are on the line.''
Gulfport coach Owen Miller thought Metamora won the game on the glass.
"We outrebound our opponents by nine on the year and at half they (Metamora) were up 10 on the glass,'' Miller said. "What we've done successfully was flipped on us tonight. One of the reasons the rebounds were so out of proportion was because we shot the ball so bad. We were one for our first 12 on the 3's. To their credit, they dictated the tempo and how it was played.''
Oney and Terrell led Gulfport with nine points apiece and Tyrell McArthur added eight.
Gulfport opens division action on Jan. 8 at Harrison Central.