Kennedy rally falls short in NCL loss to Holy Name

WARREN – After a 9-0 run midway through the second quarter by Holy Name, John F. Kennedy made a push of its own to get back into the game. The halftime adjustment made by the Eagles forced the Green Wave out to the perimeter and out of their comfort zone.

However, free-throw shooting and turnovers ultimately cost the Eagles a comeback victory as they fell to Holy Name, 65-57.

The Green Wave got early production from inside the 3-point line in the first half as they went 9 for 11 in the first quarter and 4 for 7 in the second on two-point field goals. They ended the game with a combined 17 for 25 on 2-point field goals.

The halftime adjustment by the Eagles is what got Kennedy back into the game. The Eagles started the second half in a triangle zone defense and also mixed in a box-and-one zone defense. These defensive schemes put man-to-man coverage on the Green Wave’s two leading scorers, Brad Karn and Lawrynce Johnson, and left the remainder of the defenders to play zone. This forced the Green Wave offense to look for other contributors.

Karn and Johnson combined for 24 of Holy Name’s 35 first half points. After the defensive shift, Johnson scored only six points in the second half – all coming from the free-throw line – and Karn failed to score in the final two quarters. Holy Name abandoned the inside and shot 1 for 6 from beyond the arc in the third quarter.

Kennedy got the deficit to as low as two points with 11 seconds left in the third quarter, but the Green Wave were simply too consistent in taking care of the ball and shooting free throws down the stretch.

“They made a good run at us and they had a lot of momentum, but we were able to finish the game strong,” Holy Name coach Jeff Huber said. “They were successful in pushing us out a little bit – then you have to knock down some shots – and we finally did…We were just able to make enough shots and enough free throws at the end of the game to give ourselves enough of a cushion.”

The Eagles shot only 7 for 17 from the free-throw line compared to Holy Name’s 19-for-25 performance. They also turned the ball over 13 more times than the Green Wave. John F. Kennedy coach Shawn Pompelia attributes the loss to those two reasons.

“The turnover mark tonight (was) astronomical,” Pompelia said. “You can’t win ball games shooting 7 for 17 from the foul line. They went to the line 25 times. There’s the ballgame. Turnovers and foul shooting. Until we take care of the basketball and settle in at the foul line, we’re not going to win games.”

Leading the way for Kennedy was Zach Usher, who scored a game-high 24 points. Isaac Carrino aided the Eagles with 16.

The Eagles are now just 2-6 on the season but Pompelia believes playing the difficult schedule in the North Coast League will help his team get better down the road.

“We’re playing (tough competition), but it gets to the point where you have to overcome that,” Pompelia said. “There is a purpose why we’re playing these people. There’s a purpose why we’re playing in this league. It’s to help us get better. I think we’re a good ballclub, but we’ve got to buckle down and find some heart and win these games. Because nobody cares if they’re Division II or Division I, we’ve got to take care of our own and we’re not doing that right now. Until we find some answers, we’re going to struggle.”