One field goal.
That is all the Kenston Bombers girls’ basketball team had to show in the first quarter last Saturday afternoon.
The Bombers’ offense was asleep and was held scoreless by their Western Reserve Conference rival Chardon for more than 7:30 to fall behind 7-2 in the opening period.
Kenston got hot in the second quarter and was fueled by a complete defensive effort to lift it to a 37-28 victory over its Geauga County rival for its second WRC victory of the season at Bainbridge Township.
“I just reminded them that it takes a spark to start a fire,” Bombers’ Coach Kevin Hinkle said. “We just had to finish. It was not a lack of effort or anything but we just had to finish around the rim and once we got that first one to go in the rest were going to
“We had a tough loss on Jan. 4 against Eastlake North so it was really nice to see our girls bounce back,” said the 12th-year coach. “Even though we did not play our best game offensively, our defense was sound and did a nice job of creating turnovers. I was happy to see the girls get back in the win column after a tough loss.”
The Bombers (6-5, 2-3) may not have the best record at the halfway point of the season but have gained experience playing in defensive-minded contests, with their victory against Chardon being the fourth game of their last five where they limited their opponents to 40 points or less.
According to Hinkle, Kenston is no easy out for anyone.
“I do not think we are a team that people will want to play come tournament time,” he said. “It does not matter what our record is because we are a Division II school playing a Division I schedule. I told the girls we want to be playing our best basketball in a month and we still have a lot of room to grow.”
While the Bombers are gaining consistency at the right time, it is the opposite for Chardon (3-8, 2-3) after seeing its losing streak reach six games.
Injuries have plagued the Hilltoppers since the beginning of the season and that trend continued with Chardon using 10 different lineups in 11 games.
The latest new Hilltoppers’ starting lineup saw the team missing senior forward Emily Noerr, who was dealing with a new injury after being limited at the beginning of the season with an elbow problem.
Chardon also has not enjoyed home-court advantage very often this year, with nine of its 11 games being played on the road.
The Hilltoppers were supposed to enjoy a home stand at the beginning of the New Year but were kept away from the Barn because of flooding issues, forcing them to not only have to compete in road games but also practice in alternate venues.
Chardon Coach Erik Hoenigman admitted that not being able to use their gym for more than a week has affected his team, which has instead practiced at Berkshire and Cardinal High School.
The Bombers went ahead 2-0 on a putback by senior forward Caroline Neimes in the first period, but were then outscored 7-0 by Chardon for the remainder of the quarter and committed four turnovers.
“I do not think we were patient enough and I do not think our spacing was good enough which allowed the Hilltoppers to jump some of the passes,” Hinkle said. “I think we were being a little impatient and got a little bit chaotic.”
Despite Kenston floundering on offense, the Hilltoppers could not capitalize and struggled with ball control and committed nine turnovers.
Kenston finally scored its first basket since the opening period at the 7:30 mark of the second quarter when sophomore guard/forward Alison Manis scored on a hook shot and was spurred by a 6-1 run to tie the game.
Chardon took control with a 5-0 run but the Bombers stormed back with a 9-4 spurt to take a two-point advantage at the half, sparked by five points from freshman guard Morgan Cicek.
The Bombers’ biggest challenge has been filling the minutes left by the graduation of former standout guard Catara DeJarnette, but the 5-foot-5 Cicek has held up her end.
“I have heard a lot about Catara and that she scored 1,000 points,” Cicek said. “But she is gone and there are new roles to fulfill.”
Chardon used a 5-2 run to go ahead 20-19 at the beginning of the third quarter but the Bombers responded with a 7-2 spurt to take a four-point lead.
Cicek continued igniting the Bombers in the final period and scored five more points, extending their lead to double digits and Kenston assumed total control.
“Morgan knows she can score and shoot the ball,” said Hinkle. “We have asked everybody to fill in that gap and Morgan is willing to do that and she has done a great job of improving her defense. She embraces her role and wants the ball in her hand and is not afraid to take a big shot too.”
Chardon’s offensive struggles continued in the fourth quarter and committed ten turnovers and were held to only three field goal attempts.
“They dribbled into the corners which we told them not to do and dribbled to the half court and just picked the ball up,” the second-year Hilltoppers’ coach said. “Hopefully they will grow from it. This is not freshmen basketball. If you dribble down the court and pick up the ball you will get whacked.”
After making just one field goal in the first period, the Bombers picked it up and shot 34% from the floor in the final three periods and forced 30 turnovers.
“We have our full-court pressure which works great,” Cicek said. “We talk and just get after it.”
After a road game against crosstown rival Chagrin Falls on Wednesday night, Kenston will hit the road and take on WRC rival Mayfield at 2 p.m. Saturday.
Following a home contest against conference foe Mayfield on Thursday evening, the Hilltoppers will welcome Aurora to The Barn.
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