CHARDON—Kenston has some bad memories from past games at Chardon High School and the Bombers narrowly escaped adding another on Friday.
Ryan Kooser scored a game-high 32 points and Josh Kain pitched in with 23 to lead the Bombers to a 82-78 win over the Hilltoppers.
“This has been the house of horrors for us,” said Kenston coach Matt Vespa. “We had almost the exact same game last year and ended up losing in the last second. For us to come in and get this win, it's huge.”
Ben Sulka got Chardon off to a fast start when he hit four 3-pointers in the first quarter to build a 10-1 lead.
Kooser responded with three 3-pointers of his own to pull the Bombers to within 24-23 after the first eight minutes. He finished with 10 points in the first quarter and 21 at halftime as Kenston built a 42-40 lead.
“My adrenaline was just carrying me through the game,” Kooser said. “My teammates just got me really hyped and told me to keep it rolling and that's what I did.”
Sulka, who went scoreless in the second quarter, hit two more threes in the third as the Hilltoppers once again went on a run and outscored Kenston, 24-14, to take a 64-56 lead into the fourth.
The Bombers, who rallied from a double-digit deficit in the first half, wasn’t about to let another Chardon run take them out of the game.
“That's not the type of guys we are,” Vespa said. “This group of guys is very competitive. They wanted it. We wanted to come out and maybe put on a better performance but we'll take a win any way we can get it.”
“He's just slowly starting to kind of figure it out,” Vespa said. “We knew what kind of player he could be. There are not a lot of guys that can match up with him with his inside and outside game and he's just mentally controlling the game. He's really playing about as well as he can right now. We needed all of those 32 points.”
For Kooser, stepping up in a big game is what has inspired his hard work each and every day in practice.
“It was an awesome atmosphere,” he said. “Our team brought a lot of energy and it definitely helped us get the ‘W.’ Those are the situations I practice for and it definitely paid off. I love my teammates and am glad to be a part of something special.”
Kenston’s defense sparked the fourth quarter comeback.
The Bombers recorded three consecutive steals that led to easy layups.
“Each possession was so crucial,” Vespa said. “Different guys stepped up every time, whether it was Tyran Smith getting his hand on the ball or Brian Henderson on Kee-shaun Merrill coming in to make a play. They all want to step in and make winning plays like that.”
Henderson finished with 14 points for the Bombers, who improved to 7-4 overall and 4-2 in the WRC.
Alex Sulka led Chardon with 20 points while Ben Sulka finished with 18 and Michael Laudato contributed with 12.
Kenston 82, Chardon 78
Kenston: Kooser 32, Henderson 14, Swartz 4, Smith 2, Kain 23, Stratton 6
Chardon (4-6): Laudato 12, Robertson 4, Niehus 5, Kinkopf 1, A. Sulka 20, Scerbo 18, B. Sulka 18
Kenston 23 19 14 26 — 82
Chardon 24 16 24 14 — 78
Free throws: Kenston 23 of 28, Chardon 16 of 24; 3-pointers: Kenston 9 (Kooser 4), Chardon 10 (Laudato 3)