WARREN - Brookfield avoided disaster in its season opener Friday night at John F. Kennedy, blowing a 10-point fourth-quarter lead and being taken to overtime.
Fortunately for the Warriors, Jeremy Quinlan put the team on his back when they needed him the most, scoring the last five points of the extra period as Brookfield escaped with a 44-39 victory.
"We're just getting these guys back off football," Brookfield coach Bill Kovach said. "We practiced for two weeks. The shots that didn't fall tonight will probably fall within the next two weeks.
Tribune Chronicle / R. Michael Semple
Brookfield’s Jeremy Quinlan goes up top to make his shot as John F. Kennedy’s Michael Prokop (30) defends during the second quarter of their game Friday night.
"They're just getting their basketball wind. Four seniors are all football players (Jeremy and Jimmy Quinlan, Ryan Mosora and Collin Harkulich). I think that's just going to take a couple more weeks."
Kennedy coach Shawn Pompelia said the Eagles could take solace in getting back in the game.
"I'm proud of the way they fought back to take it to overtime," he said. "We had a shot, a great shot, right at the low block for the game to be over. We missed it. But I'm really proud of these young men for how hard they fought to come back and get a chance to win in regulation."
Dominic Naples scored the first basket for Kennedy in overtime, giving his team a 39-37 lead and capping a 14-2 run. Quinlan took over from there. After a JFK turnover he converted a three-point play with 1:00 remaining. Brookfield then got a shot block, and he added a pair of free throws with 20.3 seconds to play to ice the game.
"When I get the ball on the foul line, I just try to put it in," Quinlan said. "That's what happened. I try to lead my team. We have a couple sophomores and a freshman. I lead them and we came out the winner."
Quinlan finished with a game-high 22 points.
"He's a very smart player. He's versatile," Kovach said. "He can go inside, he can go outside. He knows what a good shot is and that was the difference at the end."
After Quinlan scored the opening basket of the fourth quarter for a 35-25 lead, Naples led the charge for Kennedy (1-2). He made a three-point play, then had a 3-pointer to cut the lead to 37-34. With 2:09 to play, Naples made a free throw, and on the miss of the second one, A.J. Grant grabbed the rebound and scored to tie the game 37-37. It was the first tie since it was 8-8.
"We expect that from Dom," Pompelia said of Naples, who scored 19. "He's the captain of this team, he's our leader. He's been through this for his third year with this coaching staff."
With his team losing momentum and having lost its lead, Kovach said he told the Warriors to keep their heads in the game.
"We need to take good shots, we need to protect the ball, we need to know how much time there is, what the score is, what a good shot is, what a bad shot is," he said. "I think at the very end, the senior leadership came through."
Both teams had chances for the winning score in the final seconds of regulation. With 25 seconds left, JFK's John Hilty missed a jumper. On the other end, Brookfield's Derrick Dickson missed a 3-pointer and Harkulich missed a follow as time expired.
Pompelia said with a height disadvantage, Kennedy did well containing Brookfield.
"They go 6-3, 6-3, 6-3, 6-2, 5-10. Our tallest guy is 6-3," he said. "We wanted to make sure that we fronted the low post and had great backside help. I think we did a good job at that tonight."