It was only lightly snowing outside West Geauga on Jan. 6, but inside the gym, a game that started off pretty tightly contested became a gathering snowball.
By the fourth quarter, it had turned into a full-on cascade.
Visiting Kenston held a 10-9 lead midway through the first quarter after a basket by West Geauga junior Chris Zannetti, who was very active with four rebounds in the first frame. The Bombers then began to turn up the heat on defense, pressing and trapping all over the court, and it wasn’t long before they were racking up points with transition buckets.
Using defense to fuel offense was an extremely effective formula the rest of the night, and Kenston cruised to a 74-31 CVC Chagrin victory over its neighborhood rival.
“We felt pretty good with our game plan going in, that if we were able to heat them up we’d get some easy transition buckets,” Kenston coach Josh Jakacki said. “We certainly didn’t expect to get it like that. The thing I was most impressed with was when we got in some foul trouble, we put in our reserves, and they responded. “We’ve been looking for our bench to give us a little more of a spark. They gave us a good cushion in the first half, and the guys came back in the third and pushed the lead again. You can look at our squad and we don’t look the most intimidating — we’re not long or real athletic, but our team competes for 32 minutes. That’s all you can ask for. I’m super-proud of their effort.”
West G senior Lee Diedrich scored the game’s first basket on a feed from Ben Hester, and the Wolverines stayed step for step with the Bombers for the first few minutes.
That’s when 5-foot-9 Kenston guard C.J. Maynard took matters into his own hands. The last two of his three first-quarter triples made it 16-9 Kenston after one.
The scene seemed to repeat itself throughout the second quarter: Two Bombers would trap a West Geauga dribbler, harassing him into a turnover, or a Kenston player would jump into a passing lane and that led to a fast break and points at the other end.
The Bombers went on a 16-3 run after that early 10-9 lead, and after Hester hit a 3, outscored the Wolverines, 11-5, to take a 37-17 lead into halftime. Maynard scored seven more points in the stanza and had 16 of his game-high 18 in the first half. Six-foot-5 junior Drew Sova added eight of his 14 points in the second frame.
“C.J. is a very underrated player,” Jakacki said. “He’s a guy who’s probably going to be on everybody’s radar. He can do a little bit off the bounce, and he can shoot the ball. He and I had a little heart-to-heart today, and I told him he needed to play a little bit more selfish, but he’s such a selfless player. When we were slow-going a little bit, he hit some big shots and gave us a lot of confidence.”
The Kenston bench, led by Sova, Josh Cain and Tyler Rendlesham, held down the fort offensively in the first half, along with Maynard. The Bombers’ other four starters besides Maynard, who had combined for four first-half points, all by Jimmy Artale, got into the scorebook in the third quarter.
Jay Weemhoff drove the lane to score the first one, then added another. Parker Gdula scored, then Weemhoff came back and drained two 3s, as he scored all 10 of his points in that frame.
The Bombers continued to apply pressure, and were firmly in command at 60-19 by the end of the third.
Jakacki said his starters were “hungry” coming out of the break, but also liked what his bench players provided.
“Drew (Sova) had an outstanding game early in the season, and it’s kind of been peaks and valleys with him, but that’s (14-point effort) the kind of expectations we have for him,” he said. “He (Cain)’s one of our young pups, a nice sophomore guard that’s been growing by leaps and bounds every game. He played a little bit more this evening with the circumstances of foul trouble, but he’s a kid that has the ability to do some things with the basketball and shoot it a little bit.”
Kenston (7-2, 3-0 CVC Chagrin) has now won six of its last seven and will next take the court Jan. 13 at home against Aurora.
West Geauga (4-6, 0-2 CVC Chagrin), which was led by Zannetti’s seven points and six rebounds, had won its two previous games, and will look to put this one in the rearview mirror and get back on track in a CVC Chagrin road game Jan. 10, also with the Greenmen.
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