Published in The News-Herald
February 20, 2016
Kenston needed to do everything right against South on Feb. 19, and get some help, if they wanted to keep their hopes of a share of the Western Reserve Conference title alive.
Shooting 14 for 20 from the field and 8 of 10 from 3-point range in the first half probably qualifies as doing everything right, and the Bombers got what they needed in a 75-59 win over the Rebels at home.
With Madison’s win over Brush, the Bombers (14-8, 10-4 WRC), Blue Streaks (16-6, 10-4) and Arcs (11-11, 10-4) await South’s Feb. 23 matchup with Riverside to find out whether the Rebels (13-8, 10-3) will win the conference outright with a win, or lose, making for a four-way tie for the league championship.
Kenston could have possibly been simply looking toward its postseason matchup with Maple Heights had it not been for senior guard C.J. Maynard and junior guard Josh Kain, who teamed up for a 5-of-5 first quarter from beyond the arc en route to a 27-12 advantage for the Bombers in the opening eight minutes.
South coach Roy Infalvi Jr. was not ready to place any unfair blame on his team for the Kenston outburst.
“I didn’t think our perimeter defense was terrible,” he said, adding that Maynard and Kain’s shots were coming from well-beyond the arc. “You shoot at that mark. It’s tough to overcome that.”
The lead continued to balloon as Kain and 6-foot-8 senior center Drew Sova helped push the advantage to 41-19 early in the second quarter, which was a margin that proved insurmountable.
The Rebels outscored the Bombers, 20-10, in the third quarter, making the second half competitive, but Kenston thwarted any hopes of a South comeback by controlling the boards and doing the little things defensively.
“That’s kind of been our M.O. We’ve got some guys who can get fill it up, but we have guys who sometimes are off,” Kenston coach Matt Vespa said, referring to his team’s loss to Chardon on Feb. 17. “So, when we get hot like that, we want to ride it. We knew South was going to keep fighting. There was no chance they were going to give up on that game. So we had to keep going.”
While it was Kain, the game’s leader scorer at 19, and Maynard (18) who ran up the big lead for Kenston early, it was Sova who helped lock the lead down with 14 points and 14 rebounds.
“Not a lot of people have a 6-8 monster like Drew Sova that comes out there and goes hard,” Kain said. “Him battling down low gets us great shots because teams have to collapse on him and give us wide-open shots.”
The Bombers also finished 12 of 13 at the free-throw line.
As South polishes off its regular season with the matchup against Riverside, Kenston waits until its Feb. 27 Division I sectional final at Maple Heights, the same team that bounced the Bombers from the postseason two years ago.
Maynard said finishing the season with a win against a tough conference rival was key as the Bombers transition to the postseason.
“I think it gives us huge and tremendous amounts of confidence going into this game,” he said. “We lost to Maple Heights two years ago in the playoffs. … Hopefully we can knock those shots down again and play good defense.”
Vespa concurred with his standout guard.
“It would be a long week of practice when you have a bye in the first round if we were going on a two-game losing streak,” he said. “Maple Heights is going to be a heck of a team, and it’s going to be a challenge, but then again, so is South.”
Visit The News-Herald to view an interview with C.J. Maynard