Published in The Chagrin Valley Times
February 4, 2016
The Big Bad Wolf must have been huffing and puffing, because the Kenston girls basketball team was hoisting bricks during the first quarter of the Lady Bombers’ home game against Mayfield on Saturday afternoon.
With a 13-game winning streak and a perfect mark in the Western Reserve Conference on the line, Kenston shot two of nine from the field and trailed the visiting Lady Wildcats, 14-6.
But the Lady Bombers were no little pigs, and they weren’t about to let the Wildcats blow their house down. Outscoring their visitors, 54-20, the rest of the way, the Kenston cagers ran Mayfield out of town in an eventual 60-34 triumph.
“To be honest, I think we were pretty pumped up and excited, and I think it caused us to be a little bit tight, because we knew the importance of the game,” Kenston head coach Kevin Hinkle said. “And I think Mayfield really did a good job of capitalizing in that first quarter on our mistakes and got some good looks and knocked them down. And we loosened up and realized, ‘OK, we’ve just got to continue to play our game, and good things will come.’”
With the triumph, Kenston improved to 14-4 overall with an 11-0 mark in the WRC to clinch at least a share of the conference crown, while second-place Mayfield dropped to an 8-3 WRC mark with three games to go in league action.
In the second quarter, specifically, Kenston senior guard Michaela Barnes went on a 7-0 run of her own to knot things up, 14-14, with an and-one finish in transition off a steal by sophomore guard Corenna Maynard, a second-chance bucket off an inbounds feed from Maynard and then a 3-pointer off an assist from junior guard Grace Adams.
“Honestly,I think it was the energy that our teammates brought, especially on the bench, and then the fans helped a lot too,” Barnes said. “And defensively, we were up in their face and pressuring a lot, and I think that really got our offense going.”
Running a full-court press and a high-tempo perimeter defense, Kenston forced five Mayfield turnovers in the second quarter with steals by Barnes, Maynard and junior forward Cailee Rendlesham.
Before the wind settled, Kenston put together a 16-0 run to command a 22-14 lead with 2 1/2 minutes remaining before intermission. The Lady Wildcats were huffing and puffing, just not in the form of a Big Bad Wolf.
“At first, I didn’t really know how the game was going to turn out for us,” Maynard said. “But I knew those hustle plays would tire them out, and we ended up getting a lot of runs on them after they got tired. So we were just able to run in transition and finish our layups on them, and I think we just wanted it more than them.”
In those hustle plays, 5-foot-5 Maynard finished the game with seven points, six boards and three steals.
A big focus defensively for Kenston was locating Mayfield senior guard Shannise Dillard in transition, after she scored nine of her team-high 19 points in the first quarter, Barnes said.
“Our biggest problem, I think, was getting back in transition and then letting her penetrate to the basket,” Barnes said. “So we just needed to keep a hand in her face and make sure we could close out on her and not let her penetrate. And I think our help side was a lot better to make sure she wasn’t getting to the basket as easy as she was before.”
The Lady Bombers’ hustle also translated into a plus-17 effort in the rebounding department with 5-foot-11 senior center Sarah Spehn, six boards, and 5-foot-5 freshman guard Kate Taylor, five boards, helping Maynard break out the Windex bottle to clean up the glass.
Kenston’s 12 offensive boards, compared to Mayfield’s three, as well as loose-ball flurries for extra inbound passes, paved the way for the Lady Bombers to net 22 second-chance points.
“We’ve got some kids who come off the bench who did a great job at just getting those hustle plays, those 50-50 balls,” coach Hinkle said. “And some of them just said, ‘Hey, if I hit the glass, I might get a couple buckets here and there and give our team the second opportunities. And they’re taking a lot of pride in that, just trying to get every loose ball. They’re really buying into every possession.”
After a 24-19 Kenston lead at intermission, Mayfield hung around in the third quarter, as it was still a four-point game, 31-27, with two minutes to go in the period.
But then put-backs by Spehn and Maynard and a pair of buckets by Barnes, including one in transition off a steal by 5-foot-11 junior center Audrey Horn, had the Lady Bombers leading, 38-29, heading into the final stretch.
Continuing that momentum in the fourth, Horn had her own put-back bucket, and then she pulled a rabbit out of a hat on the perimeter to find a wide-open lane for a layup on back-to-back possessions to put Kenston up, 43-28.
“That’s always a fun play if we get to run it,” she said. “We go with a fake handoff, and then we go to the hoop. I just knew we were on a good run and why not add to it. So I knew I had to finish both of those baskets, and I did, so I was happy.”
Kenston finished the last 10 minutes on a 29-7 run for the 60-34 final.
Barnes tallied a game-high 22 points – her 10th time breaking 20 points this season – while Spehn bucketed nine points, Adams and Maynard scored seven apiece, Horn chipped in five, Taylor scored four, senior Nicole Doran had four, and senior Taylor Wiegand had two.
“I mean, none of us are really satisfied,” Barnes said. “We came into this conference new, and one of our biggest goals was to win the conference. So we’ve got at least a tie for now, but we’re not satisfied with that.”
A Kenston win or a Mayfield loss in the final three games of league action would clinch an outright conference banner for the Lady Bombers, who were scheduled to travel to Brush on Wednesday night.
The Lady Bombers will conclude their regular season with a road game at 2:30 p.m. Saturday at Chardon and a home game against Willoughby South at 7 p.m. Feb. 10.
A rematch between Kenston and Mayfield is favored in the Division I Perry District semifinals at 7:45 p.m. Feb. 22 at Perry High School.
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