Kennedy edged by Aquinas

WARREN — St. Thomas Aquinas rallied from eight down in the second half to beat John F. Kennedy in this North Coast League, White Tier game, 48-44.

“It was a good high school basketball game. Both teams played hard,” said Aquinas coach Scott Giamarco, whose team is 4-13. “There were lots of turnovers on both sides. We missed 16 free throws. It’s hard to win games missing that many from the line. We were lucky to get out of here with a win tonight. We responded after falling behind. I’m proud of them. I have to give JFK credit. They have some nice young players. They’re going to be tough here for the next couple of years. They have shooters. They have some big guards coming back. It’s nice coming here. Good hospitality. Good environment. Good culture.”

A low-scoring first quarter saw JFK take 5 minutes to get their first points.

A nice spin move underneath by sophomore Cameron Hollobaugh got JFK (5-12) on the board. Senior Gianni Eaton followed with a 3-pointer, but that was all the scoring the Eagles could muster. The Knights led 8-5 after one quarter.

Eaton began the second with back-to-back 3s for an 11-8 lead. Hunter Smith had a strong rebound putback for Aquinas. Another trey from the corner swished through the net by Eaton gave Kennedy a 16-12 lead. The teams battled and were tied 18-18 just before the half. Sophomore Bobby Plizga connected on a 3 at the buzzer to give JFK a 21-18 halftime advantage.

Hollobaugh powered through a block to get the ball up and in to start the second half. Senior Jody Hayes made a great pass down low to Hollobaugh for a 25-21 lead. The Eagles then built their biggest lead of the game. Junior Louis Kondolios drained one from 3 to give JFK a 31-23 edge.

However, the advantage was short-lived as the Knights came storming back. After Javaz Mincey (team-high 14 points) completed three-point play, the Knights had tied the game at 32 heading to the final quarter.

A turn-around, touch-pass from Hollobaugh out to Eaton put JFK back on top. Eaton made a leaping effort to steal the ball away. He tossed the ball up ahead to sophomore Marcus Aulizia. Aulizia was pressured by the defense, but wouldn’t be denied. After his basket, JFK held a one-point lead with 4 minutes to play. Hunter Geissinger made a deep two-point basket to put Aquinas back up. Careless passing, and turnovers, by JFK allowed the Knights to pull ahead.

Eaton wasn’t ready to surrender to the Knights. With 11 seconds remaining he buried a 3. He did it again with 2 seconds to go. Eaton hit seven three-pointers in all, and finished with a game-high 23 points.

His performance wasn’t enough as Raysean Owens (11 points) hit three clutch free-throws down the stretch to help give the Knights the victory.