Wednesday, February 8, 2023

Kenston knocks off previously undefeated MLK

BAINBRIDGE—Kenston is a member of the Western Reserve Conference but starting with Thursday’s 69-63 win over visiting Martin Luther King the Bombers began a two-game stretch to see how they’d fare in the Senate League.

The Bombers, who improved to 3-2 overall, next play Glenville on Wednesday at the Hudson Holiday Tournament.

“We said this is kind of our Senate League championship,” said Kenston coach Matt Vespa. “We get to play the top two teams in the Senate League. Let's see how we can handle ourselves in that tough league and so far we've done a pretty good job.”

Kenston had its way early as the Bombers took a 33-19 lead into halftime.

Josh Kain and Ryan Kooser did most of the damage for the Bombers. Kain scored eight of his game-high 27 in the first half while Kooser finished with 19, including 11 in the first 16 minutes of play.

The Bombers held a 51-36 advantage after three quarters then held on as the Crusaders made a run to pull to within four in the fourth quarter.

“They were undefeated for a reason,” Vespa said. “They are the No. 1 team in the Senate League. That's a really good team. We knew they weren't going to stop playing. We just had to kind of weather the storm and keep going.”

Kenston was held without a field goal in the fourth quarter but the Bombers did hit on 18 of 24 free throw tries. Kooser was 6-for-6 in the final eight minutes.

“It was good for us to be in a game like that,” Vespa said. “We haven't been in one where we had a lead and had to kind of protect it, so it was a really good experience for us. It's always nice to learn a lesson like that in a win.”

The win followed a 66-50 loss at Madison, which left Vespa and his players searching for answers.

“We went to Madison and didn't really put in a performance like we wanted and I thought we got outworked,” Vespa said. “I really challenged these guys. I locked them in the locker room and said, ‘Figure out what we need to do to be the team we're capable of being.’ They had a long talk and called each other out on some things and really responded well tonight. That's what we wanted to see.”

That soul searching was just what the Bombers needed to put together a total team win.

“One on one, I don't know if we can beat those guys,” Vespa said. “But, five on five, I think we have a pretty good chance like we did tonight.”

Kenston 69, Cle. MLK 63

Kenston (3-2): Kain 27, Kooser 19, Henderson 4, Schwartz 6, Dejarnette 2, Smith 4, Merril 2, Batista 3

MLK (7-1): Vaughn 21, Brown 15, Carr 9, Carter 5, Glass 5, Curry 2, Hardy 4

MLK 5 15 17 26 — 63
Kenston 12 21 18 18 — 69

Free throws: Kenston 31 of 40, MLK 7 of 10; 3-pointers: Kenston 6 (Kooser 2, Henderson, Kain 3), MLK 6 (Brown 4, Glass, Carter) 

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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