Second half run leads Kenston past North

Kenston 81, North 50

BAINBRIDGE—Kenston’s double-digit halftime lead quickly disappeared early in the third quarter when North drained three straight 3-pointers to pull to within 37-32 early in the second half, but the Bombers responded with a run of their own and pulled away from the Rangers for an 81-50 win on Friday.

The Bombers, who improved to 12-6 overall and 7-4 in the Western Reserve Conference, countered North’s 11-2 run with a 14-2 scoring spree that pushed their win-streak to six games.

“I had a little chat with the guys after North’s run,” said Kenston coach Matt Vespa. “I just reminded them about what got us here and to get back to how we play and what put us on this six-game win streak, playing unselfishly and playing for each other. I thought we did that. It’s pretty simple; when we play like that we’re pretty good.”

Ben Batista came off the bench to score seven of his nine points in the third quarter and he also dominated the glass on both ends.

“He really came out and took over in that third quarter with offensive rebounds and finishing,” Vespa said. “We reminded these guys that they have two guaranteed home games left after this, so what kind of impression did they want to leave. I thought he answered that call and did a good job.”

Ryan Kooser, who scored a game-high 22 points, added six in the third quarter as Kenston retook control of the game.

At 6-foot-5, Kooser created mismatch problems for the Rangers with his ability to attack the rim and shoot from the outside. He drained a pair of 3-pointers in the game.

“It’s funny how it works,” Vespa said. “Comparatively, we’re a really big team but there are teams we are going to see that are bigger than us. You just have to take advantage of the advantages you have and I thought we did a good job taking advantage of that size. Even the threat of that size opened up the perimeter for us.”

Kenston led just 17-14 after the first quarter and took a 33-21 lead into the locker room.

North hit five 3-pointers, including three straight, early in the third quarter to cut Kenston’s lead to just five points.

Brandon Barron hit two 3s and Jimmy Arnold, Brian Skolny and Evan Liddington each drained one. Arnold finished with a team-high 12 points for the Rangers.

“They’re dangerous because of how they shoot the ball and you know they’re never going to go away,” Vespa said of the Rangers. “Those guys can go on a run pretty quick so we needed to be aware of that. They went on theirs and we went on ours and ours happened to be a little longer. Credit to North, they’re a hard team to put away but right now we’re playing really well and we’re kind of rolling. It would be nice to carry that momentum into next week.”

Kenston’s run was partly fueled by the defensive efforts of Kee-Shaun Merrill and Tyran Smith, who harassed North’s guards and made it difficult for the Rangers to settle into their offensive sets. That led to more transition scoring opportunities.

“They really get after it,” Vespa said of his defensive specialists. “We tell them we want to be the team you don’t want to play against. You don’t want to play against the teams that pressure you and are constantly on you and those to embody that. It’s not fun to be an opposing guard bringing the ball up against those guys because they’re constantly there.”

Michael Swartz contributed to Kenston’s win with 16 points and Batista and Blaise Gorski both finished with nine.

Kenston travels to Brush on Monday while North visits Harvey on Saturday.

Kenston 81, North 50

North: Barron 8, Duleba 3, Arnold 12, Cunningham 3, Cantrell 7, Liddington 7, Broja 4

Kenston: Kooser 22, Swartz 16, Merrill 6, Gorski 9, Long 6 Bautista 9, Gabel 5, Ransom 6, Smith 4

North 14 7 19 10 — 50
Kenston 17 16 22 26 — 81

Free throws: North 7 of 11, Kenston 3 of 7; 3-pointers: North 8 (Arnold 2, Barron 2, Cunningham, Cantrell, Skulng, Liddington), Kenston 8 (Kooser 2, Ransom 2, Swartz 2, Gorski, Gabel);

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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.