Bombers rally in second half to beat Chardon

Kenston Boys Basketball

Ryan Kooser scored 22 of his game-high 30 points in the second half and Ryan Long came off the bench to score 12 in the final 16 minutes to lead Kenston to an 85-66 come from behind win over visiting Chardon on Friday.

The Bombers, trailing, 36-30, at halftime, stuck with the game plan in the second half and took control on both ends of the court.

“I don’t think anything necessarily changed, I think we just kept doing the things we were doing and wore them down a little bit,” said Kenston coach Matt Vespa of the second half effort. “We made a few more shots in the second half, which definitely helped, but we didn’t go away from anything or start trying to force anything, we just started playing the way we wanted to play and we were successful with it. It was a huge team effort by everybody who stepped on the floor.”

Kooser hit a pair of third quarter 3-pointers to ignite Kenston’s second half comeback. The Bombers outscored the Hilltoppers, 30-18, in the third quarter and 25-12 in the fourth.

Long hit three 3-pointers in the final two quarters of play and Kee-Shaun Merrill finished with 20 points in the win.

“Kooser was really playing well and Kee-Shaun played awesome,” Vespa said. “He ended up guarding Alex Sulka for most of the game, who is the leading scorer in the area. He held him to 23 points. Most times it’s not good when you give up 23, but when it’s against a kid that has averaged 45, 41 and 29 in his last couple games, that is huge for us. Ryan Long came in and knocked down some 3s. You don’t get a lot of 6-7 guys that can come off the bench and knock down 3s. That’s nice to have.”

Kooser also got to the foul line six times in the second half.

“We really moved the ball and played our roles tonight,” Kooser said. “We all contributed in tonight’s game and have to keep it going moving forward. I missed some shots early but my teammates gave me the ball in great positions to score, so it made it a lot easier.”

The Bombers, who improved to 10-6 overall and 5-4 in the Western Reserve Conference, also stepped up the intensity on defense in the second half.

“It was just effort,” Vespa said. “I don’t have much to do with how we play. Once it comes to the game, I’d like to think I have a lot to do with it, but we know what we need to do, it’s just a matter of how hard we’re going to do it and if we’re going to play with intensity and effort the whole game and I thought we did. If you let up against Chardon and Sulka and Laudato and those guys, they can score. They put 96 on South last week so it was good to contain them a little bit.”

Kenston travels to South on Tuesday.

Kenston 85, Chardon 66

Chardon: B. Sulka 11, Laudato 3, Nichus 3, Mears 4, Hemly 1, A. Sulka 23, Corsillo 2, Scerbo 18

Kenston: Kooser 30, Swartz 8, Merrill 20, Smith 6, Gorski 5, Long 12, Batista 4

Chardon 13 23 18 12 — 66
Kenston 14 16 30 25 — 85

Free throws: Kenston 16 of 21, Chardon 18 of 23; 3-pointers: Kenston 9 (Kooser 4, Long 3, Swartz 2), Chardon 4 (B. Sulka 3, Laudato)

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The creator and publisher of, Hare has covered high school sports in Northeast Ohio since 1997. He began as a correspondent for the Lake County News Herald, where he contributed until 2011, primarily covering high school football and wrestling. In 1999, Hare began writing for, a member of the network of high school and college sports web sites. He focuses on covering Notre Dame football recruiting. was created in 2004 and was a member of the network until 2012. The site's original purpose was to cover Ohio high school football and recruiting news but since has grown to cover all sports and to provide sports information services to high school athletic programs and individual teams. Hare attended Willoughby South High School through the middle of his senior year, then graduated from Berkshire High School in Burton in 1986. He played football, wrestled and was an all-Geauga county baseball player (1986). He lives in Chardon with his wife Paulette and their children.