Wednesday, February 8, 2023

Bombers survive at North

EASTLAKE—Things didn’t start out well for Kenston in its Western Reserve Conference showdown at North on Friday.

But, it’s not how you start a basketball game that matters. It’s how you finish and the Bombers dominated the second half to beat the Rangers, 79-65.

“That could have gone poorly,” said Kenston coach Matt Vespa of his team’s slow start. “We responded well to that. North is a team that has a lot of young guys and they see the ball going in the basket and they start to believe a little bit. Everything kind of went wrong for us in the first half, so I was really happy with how we came out in the second half and were able to pull that one out.”

Kenston standout Ryan Kooser picked up two early fouls and sat out the entire second quarter.

Fitbit Charge 2 Free ShippingMeanwhile, North’s shooters, led by Jimmy Arnold and Jake Tanski, caught fire early. Arnold hit three of his five 3-pointers in the first half and Tanksi added two as the Rangers built an early double-digit lead.

The Rangers led 20-13 after the first quarter and 37-27 at halftime.

North’s lead could have been bigger had it not been for Josh Kain, who scored 17 of his game-high 35 in the first half and the efforts of Justin Stratton and Ryan Long on both ends of the floor pulling down rebounds and defending the paint.

“That was one that everyone just kind of stepped up,” Vespa said. “Ryan Long came in as a sophomore and made some big plays for us. Everyone that played did something good.”

With Kooser back on the floor, the Bombers outscored the Rangers 23-13 in the third quarter and 29-15 in the fourth.

Kooser scored his first seven points of the game in the third quarter and finished with 11.

Tyran Smith also made some big plays in the second half including a 3-pointer that gave the Bombers a 56-50 lead early in the fourth.

“He's a guy that comes in and just makes something happen,” Vespa said. “That ball swung to him in the corner and that's huge when a guy can come in off the bench and knock down a three like that to put us over the hump there.”

Kenston improved to 9-5 overall and 5-3 in the WRC. North dropped to 1-13, 0-8.

“I don't think we played horribly, but credit to North, they hit some shots,” Vespa said. “That intensity we needed just wasn't there. We kind of got punched in the face and that kind of woke us up. We always talk about being the one that punches first. We can't counterpunch every time. Luckily we were able to pull it out tonight, but that's going to be tough to do all year.”

Arnold paced the Rangers with 19 points. Evan Liddington and Brandon Dailey both pitched in with 12. Brandon Barron also reached double figures with 11.

Kenston 79, North 65

Kenston: Kain 35, Kooser 11, Swertz 9, Long 8, Stratton 5, Henderson 4, Smith 3, Merrill 3, Batista 2

North: Arnold 19, Liddington 12, Dailey 12, Barron 11, Tanski 8, Duleba 3

Kenston 13 14 23 29 — 79
North 20 17 13 15 — 65

Field goals: Kenston 25 of 55, North 18 of 43; Free throws: Kenston 19 of 24, North 20 of 26; 3-pointers: Kenston 10 (Kain 5), North 9 (Arnold 5)

Steve Hare
Steve Hare is the Chagrin Valley Conference's Sports Information Director. He also created and publishes, an online publication dedicated to providing hyperlocal coverage to area high school athletic programs. Hare began covering high school sports for the Lake County News Herald in 1997. Hare attended Willoughby South High School through the middle of his senior year, then graduated from Berkshire High School in Burton in 1986. He played football, wrestled and was an all-Geauga county baseball player (1986). He lives in Chardon with his wife Paulette and their children.

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