Published in The Chagrin Valley Times
December 19, 2019
Kenston had to have been finding the hot shooter in the second quarter of the Bomber cagers’ league game against Riverside on Friday night in front of a home crowd in Bainbridge Township.
Maybe 6-foot-1 sophomore Andy Kooser was dialed in from downtown. Perhaps 6-foot junior Ethan Thorne was rewriting the definition of a mid-range game with his pull-up jumper. Or 6-foot-3 junior Kyle Quinlan could have been showcasing his off-the-ball movement.
And don’t forget about 5-foot-10 senior Donny Maynard, who can get going in transition or beat his man on the baseline for some uncontested layups.
The fact of the matter is that the Kenston boys have so many offensive weapons on the basketball court this season that they don’t need to find the hot shooter but rather the right shooter.
The Bombers did just that during a 22-6 tilt in the second quarter against the visiting Beavers in Western Reserve Conference hoops on Friday night. Kenston had seven guys combine to shoot 10-of-14 from the field in that frame alone for a 42-21 upper hand at intermission.
“We just came out and played and hit shots,” Kenston second-year head coach Derrick DeJarnette said. “I have a lot of shooters out there, and they just played their role very well. I played five guards out there. So, anyone can bring the ball up, and we just played together.”
The four mentioned players all finished in double-digit scoring for the Bombers, with Kooser dropping a game-high 21 points on seven-of-eight shooting, including three-of-three from downtown and four-of-four from the foul line, to motor the Bombers to a 68-53 victory for a 3-1 record and a 3-0 mark in the WRC.
Not to mention, Kooser, who started as a freshman last season, added three boards, five assists and three steals to his resume. The only shot he missed against the Beavers was the very first attempt he took in the game.
“It’s nice to know that my guys got my back,” Kooser said. “I didn’t start off the season too hot, but I wasn’t forcing it tonight, and I was knocking down some open shots. But I’ve got to give it all to my teammates. They were finding me and getting me going. And once I hit a couple wide-open threes, it was just more confidence from there.”
Kooser and Thorne got the Bombers’ offense going with seven points apiece out of the gates for a 20-15 lead at the quarter mark. In particular, Thorne drained a pull-up, a running floater and a 3-pointer off an assist from Kooser.
Thorne entered the night having led the Bombers’ scoring column with 19 points in a 72-59 win against Madison and with 15 points in a 71-52 victory against Chardon. He finished the Riverside game with 16 points, two assists and three steals.
Thorne came off the bench last season and only had one game in double-figures. Through four games this campaign, he has averaged a team-best 16 points per night.
“A lot of guys either shoot threes or layups,” DeJarnette said. “He’s one of the few guys who has a mid-range game that he can knock down that shot nine times out of 10. I totally trust him with that shot. And, man, he has a high motor.
“It just opens everything up. They all have bought into each other. And they trust each other. And they all play together. So, it all fits. It all fits.”
In that lopsided second quarter, Quinlan was getting it done in every statistical category, including an and-one finish to ignite the period and a 3-pointer off an assist from 6-foot-1 senior Caleb Moore for six of his 11 points.
A jack-of-all-trades, Quinlan also finished with 10 boards, five assists, two steals and two blocks to help hold the Beavers to 20-of-49 shooting from the field, or 40.8 percent.
“The stats are great and everything, but I’m not too worried about that,” Quinlan said. “I’m more worried about getting guys going, getting my teammates going and just always bringing the energy. We’ve been starting off pretty good the last few games, but that’s what I’m looking to do before every single game – come in with energy.
“And we came out in that second quarter shooting, playing great defense and getting steals. We don’t just hit open threes and stand around. We make things happen.”
Kenston came out strong to open the third quarter with Maynard hitting a running floater, Kooser converting off a steal by Maynard and then Maynard collecting another steal and going coast-to-coast for the Bombers’ largest lead of the game, 51-25. Maynard finished with 10 points, two boards and three steals.
But then Riverside sped up the tempo to the Beavers’ liking and started to chip away, cutting their deficit in half, 57-44, by the end of the period.
“They just had some good play calls, and they just got a lot of defensive stops,” Quinlan said. “We just weren’t playing our brand. We’re playing like we were up 20 when we should have been playing like we were right with them, neck and neck. But we just have to keep going through those quarters and not change anything that had been working for us earlier in the game.”
The Beavers also had eight second-chance points in that third quarter to help provide a lifeline.
Riverside then cut that 26-point deficit down to single digits, 59-50, with 4:45 to play, but that was the closest they’d get. A clutch 3-pointer by Thorne off an assist from Quinlan with 3:30 remaining allowed the Bombers to finish the game on a 9-3 run to close out the victory.
“We just settled down and got what we wanted,” DeJarnette said about slowing down the tempo late in the game. “And we played solid defense down the stretch, ran the clock and came out good.”
Also contributing to the scoring column for Kenston were seniors Moore, Alan Wood and Jay Middleton, as well as sophomore guard Nick Cowoski, who’s been a key factor off the bench with his ball-handling and with his scoring. He had 19 points in the Madison game and 14 points in the Chardon game.
Overall, Kenston shot 54.2 percent from the field against Riverside, including a seven-of-11 clip from downtown. The Bombers had 17 assists on 26 field goals.
“We all talk about sharing the ball and not being selfish,” Kooser said. “We know we have multiple people that can score, so we try to get everyone involved, and it just works out.”
On Tuesday night, Kenston improved to 4-1 with a 68-51 home victory against non-league foe Cornerstone Christian Academy. Kooser and Quinlan led the scoring with 17 points apiece, while Thorne had 16 points.
Up next, Kenston will host Mayfield in WRC hoops at 7:30 p.m. Friday.
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