BAINBRIDGE—Ryan Kooser’s right-handed dunk in the closing seconds put an exclamation point on Kenston’s 68-48 win over visiting North in Tuesday’s Western Reserve Conference opener for both teams.
It also put a smile on his coach’s face.
“Ryan Kooser got his first dunk ever after I told him he can't dunk, so it was nice that he was able to get that one,” said Kenston coach Matt Vespa. “He missed a layup earlier and he said he was going to try to dunk. I said, ‘There's zero chance of you dunking, you can't dunk.’ For once I was wrong and he actually got one. That was nice to see.”
The Bombers used a 12-2 first quarter run to keep the Rangers at a distance throughout the game.
Brandon Barron’s jumper pulled North to within 10-9 midway through the opening quarter.
Kenston's Josh Kain followed that with a 3-pointer and a steal that led to an Elijah Singleton layup that put the Bombers up 15-9. Back-to-back baskets from Brandon Dailey and Brian Henderson pushed the Kenston lead to 17-11. Kain then hit four straight free throws to put the Bombers up by double digits.
Josh Brisar hit a 3-pointer to temporarily halt the Kenston momentum.
The Bombers led, 39-25, at halftime.
“I’m still not happy, but no coach ever is,” Vespa said. “I think we could have executed a little better but we'll take a 20-point win any time we can get one.”
Michael Swartz led the Bombers with 15 points and Henderson and Singleton both finished with 10. Kooser and Kain both pitched in with nine points and four other Kenston players found the net in the win.
“That was the plan,” Vespa said about getting more plyers involved in the scoring. “We wanted to get guys in. We got to play guys and guys got to show what they were able to do.”
Justin Stratton didn’t score but he pulled down a pair of rebounds and had a steal for the Bombers.
“A guy like Justin Stratton, a guy who hasn't been getting as much time lately, comes in and makes a real nice contribution for us,” Vespa said. “He hasn't gotten as much time as he'd like but he made a great contribution and Elijah Singleton, that kid is just energy in a bottle. He was sick tonight and still came in and just flies around and does everything. I thought they set the tone for us.”
Kenston out rebounded North, 34-23, and forced 23 Ranger turnovers.
“We were trying to kind of mix up our defenses a little bit,” Vespa said. “We were kind of getting used to that. We had a few communication errors but that's something we're going to need to do. We play St. Ignatius, we play Bedford, we play Cleveland MLK. We're going to have to be able to play multiple defenses to play the teams we do and in our conference.”
The win provided the Bombers with plenty of momentum heading into the heart of their league schedule.
“It's a tough conference and we're right in Tuesday-Friday, Tuesday-Friday with this stuff,” Vespa said. “We go to Riverside on Friday, which I know is going to be a battle too. It's nice to get one and it's nice to get guys experience in what the conference is all about and I think we were able to do that tonight.”
Barron scored a game-high 20 points for North and Brandon Abercrombie pitched in with eight.
Kenston improved to 2-0 overall while North dropped to 0-2.