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Rusty JFK can’t contain taller Lowellville

Staff photo / Brian Yauger John F. Kennedy’s Gabe Green, left, goes up for a shot during the first half of Tuesday’s game. Green finished with 12 points.

LOWELLVILLE — Lowellville got into an offensive rhythm early, and used that momentum and a balanced scoring attack to push past John F. Kennedy, 86-75, on Tuesday night in the Eagles’ first game of the season.

Preparing for Lowellville’s zone defense caused some difficulties for JFK, and the Eagles also dealt with general rustiness.

“It’s really hard to simulate that (defense) in practice,” Eagles coach Mark Komlanc said. “We tried. We don’t have enough 6-foot-4 kids to simulate that and it affected us. I thought we got caught standing around offensively. … Silly turnovers, over-passing the basketball, not taking shots that we should have and stuff that we’ve talked about on a regular basis, but it’s game one.”

Lowellville’s tricky zone defense for the most part held strong the entire game, but Cam Hollobaugh dominated the scoring for Kennedy, tallying a game-high 32 points.

“Hollobaugh kept getting in the lane and finishing on us, so we were trying to stop that penetration, but we stuck with our zone,” Lowellville coach Matt Olson said. “We didn’t shy away from it. We just stuck with it. We had the lead for most of the game so we didn’t feel like we needed to change much.”

Staff photo / Brian Yauger Hayden Wait of Kennedy drives to the basket for the Eagles past the defense of Lowellville’s Johnny Michaels.

Contributing for the Eagles were T.J. Harden and Gabe Green who had 13 and 12 points, respectively.

Most of the scoring Tuesday came in a series of runs for each team. Just as Lowellville built up its lead, Kennedy would respond and close the gap. When Kennedy closed the gap, the Rockets would push back, never ceding control of the lead.

“That’s why I’m so proud of them,” Olson said about his Rockets. “Every time they made a little run we seemed to respond. I was really proud of them for that.”

Lowellville got off to a quick start, leading 19-12 after the first quarter, and the Rockets were able to keep the Eagles at an arm’s length the rest of the game.

“I was proud of our boys,” Olson said. “We hit some shots early which I thought gave us some confidence offensively. I know it’s obviously JFK’s first game, they’re going to be a different team down the road I’m sure, but I thought our guys played well tonight.

“We had four guys over 15 points. I thought they played together and did a good, good job.”

Three of those four reached the 20-point threshold with Johnny Michaels, Vinny Ballone and Anthony Lucente all scoring 20 points. Cole Bunofsky added 17 for the Rockets.

Kennedy (0-1) has six days off before its next contest, when it travels to Chardon to take on Notre Dame-Cathedral Latin. The Eagles are no strangers to adversity, so Komlanc isn’t worried about the shaky start.

“We’ve been through this before,” Komlanc said. “We’ll get back at it tomorrow and grind and we’ll be fine. I have faith in them and I know they’re going to play next Tuesday and it’ll be completely fine. We’ll get it fixed.”

Next up for the Rockets (5-2) is a rematch against Jackson-Milton on Friday. The two teams faced each other in December in a 44-42 Blue Jays victory. This time, the two meet on Lowellville’s home court.

“It’s always a battle, it seems like with them,” Olson said. “It’s going to be physical both ways and we look forward to the challenge.”

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