Aggressive Eagles easily blow past Liberty, 91-59

Tribune Chronicle / Eric Murray John F. Kennedy’s Terrance King, left, sets up the offense Tuesday night against Liberty defender Kevin Hawn.

WARREN — Aggressive. That’s been a buzzword around the John F. Kennedy boys basketball team lately, as coach Mark Komlanc has said his team hasn’t been playing that way enough over the past two weeks.

That aggressiveness he’s been looking for came out from his team on Tuesday night, though, as the Eagles got off to a fast start and ran away from the Liberty Leopards, 91-59.

“For the first time in awhile, we were extremely aggressive, defensively. We went after the ball, we attacked the ball, both on rebounds and on passes,” Komlanc said. “When we can do that, we’re extremely talented (and) quick.”

Kennedy, which endured an 86-41 loss to North Coast League rival Cleveland Central Catholic on Friday night — partly as a result of three injured starters — certainly didn’t waste any time against Liberty on Tuesday.

The Eagles started the game with a 12-0 lead, thanks to 3-pointers from Justin Bofenkamp and Byron Taylor. Bofenkamp and Taylor, along with Antonio McQueen, were the three injured starters last week, and they certainly didn’t disappoint against the Leopards.

Tribune Chronicle / Eric Murray Liberty’s Shonterry Haydu (22) goes to the basket as John F. Kennedy’s Nate Woods (31) tries to stop him.

In fact, all three players scored in double figures, led by Taylor’s game-high 20 points. Taylor scored 19 of his 20 points in the first half, including 12 points in the opening period alone.

Taylor drilled two more 3-pointers and knocked down a pair of free throws to extend the lead to 19-5, with 3:28 still left to play in the first quarter.

“It was just open. We were just creating for each other, kick the ball (out),” Taylor said. “I just happened to be in the open spot and knocked them down.”

Liberty (2-8) found itself trailing by 16 points to start the second quarter, and eventually cut the deficit down to 12, thanks to baskets by Kevin Hawn and Andre Bowers, plus a pair of free throws by Kevin Code.

However, the Eagles went on a 20-4 run to put things out of reach for Liberty late in the first half, as Taylor and Bofenkamp continued to find the basket. Ultimately, Kennedy led 56-31 at the half, and led by as many as 37 points in the second half of the blowout victory.

Tribune Chronicle / Eric Murray John F. Kennedy’s Terrance King (3) tries to stop Liberty’s Andrew Bowers Tuesday night in the Eagles home win.

“They came out and blitzed us real hard,” Liberty coach Chris Kohl said. “Good full-court man to man and we didn’t react very well. They put a lot of pressure on us, the turnovers, the bad shots. But we hung in there, we came back a little bit, but that’s a good basketball team.

“It’s a work in progress, we’ve got a lot of young guys and we’re still learning how to play together and learning the system. It was a good test for us tonight.”

Kennedy (7-2) will face another tough test on Saturday, when it travels to North Allegheny, Pennsylvania, to face one of the best basketball programs in the Keystone State. Komlanc will certainly need the contributions of Taylor, Bofenkamp and McQueen to have a shot against a potent team on the road.

According to Komlanc, McQueen isn’t quite 100 percent. As for Bofenkamp, Komlanc said he decided to shut him down for the second half against Liberty because he was struggling with “explosiveness and lateral quickness.”

As for Saturday’s matchup, it all starts with that buzzword again.

“Well we need to attack the basketball, both in our press and on the rebounding end of it,” Komlanc said. “When we do that, it alleviates a lot of our ‘going through the motions,’ because they want to get out and run.”