Trojans on the run


Kennedy girls out-hustle Gaston, Country Christian for 2-0 start

by: PHIL HAWKINS - Kennedy sophomore Lakin Susee put the clamps down on the Gaston Greyhounds on Wednesday. The second-year wing recorded eight steals on the night, as the Trojans picked the ball off 37 times against the Greyhounds in Kennedys season opener. For good or bad, energy and hustle is going to be the name of the game for the Kennedy girls basketball team this season.

The Trojans opened the season Wednesday against visiting Gaston and completely overwhelmed the Greyhounds with tenacious defense from start to finish, pulling away with a 71-31 victory.

Two nights later, Kennedy’s high-energy style of play put most of the team’s starters in foul trouble for the second half against Country Christian. Fortunately, the Trojans’ reserves came to the rescue Friday night and helped deliver a 34-30 win over the Cougars.

“The girls came out ready to go. They weren’t lacking in aggression, which is really good. It’s what you want as a coach,” said coach Kerry Hall. “Now, we just have to find the happy medium in that aggression, so that we don’t get into foul trouble.”

The two victories got the Trojans out to a 2-0 for the fifth straight year since Kerry Hall took the helm of the Kennedy basketball program for the 2009-10 season.

Although the Trojans have posted a winning record in each of the four previous seasons under Hall, the team has managed to get to the state playoffs just once in that span, in a first-round loss to the Riverdale Mavericks in 2012.

Hall said the team has been training hard in the offseason and in the fall in hopes of not only grabbing one of the Tri-River Conference’s three playoff berths, but a trip to the eight-team playoff tournament in Pendleton at the end of the season.

“They want to go to Pendleton,” said Hall. “They’ve been very dedicated. Several of them, when volleyball was still going on, they’d come into the weight room three days a week and lift weights.”

by: PHIL HAWKINS - Kennedy's Mariah Pranger has been a key contributor coming off the bench for the Trojans in each of the teams two victories to start the season. The junior wing had four points, three steals and a block in the team's 71-31 win over Gaston to begin the season. Pranger helped lead the team's second unit for much of the second half on Friday night as the Trojans battled foul trouble in a 34-30 win over Country Christian.During the summer months, the team would lift weights and bookend their workouts with one-mile warm-up and cool-down runs.

Although OSAA rules prohibit Hall and her husband Peter, who co-coaches with her, from supervising workouts during the offseason, they were pleased to keep the gym open for their players and observe the team’s dedication to the coming season.

“Our motivation as coaches is to keep them healthy,” said Hall. “The more in shape they are before the season starts, the better off we are as far as keeping them healthy.”

The extra time in the gym has definitely paid off, said Hall, particularly in the team’s season-opener against Gaston. The Trojans used a full-court press from the start of the tip-off and kept the defensive pressure tight on the opposing team.

The Greyhounds had few solutions for Kennedy’s high-pressure defense, which generated 37 steals for the Trojans as well as a hand-full of unforced Gaston turnovers.

Senior Autumn Barth and sophomore Lakin Susee were Kennedy’s most prolific thieves in the game, picking off the ball nine and eight times, respectively. The frequent turnovers led to numerous scoring opportunities for Kennedy, which built a 22-7 lead after the first quarter that continued to bloom throughout the game.

by: PHIL HAWKINS - Spirits were high during the Trojans victory over the Greyhounds Wednesday, as starters (from left) K.C. Boen, Phoebe Hill and Amelia Grosjacques take a break and watch the team's reserves.By half time, the score was 36-15. Although the Trojans shifted down to a half-court press for the second half of the game, Kennedy continued to build their lead in the third and fourth quarters until reaching the team’s 40-point margin of victory.

Kennedy’s pair of low-post players did most of the damage against Gaston, as senior Phoebe Hill led the team with 18 points and 10 rebounds. Junior Amelia Grosjacques added 13 points and a team-high 14 rebounds as well.

The victory was a team-effort for the Trojans, as all 10 members pitched in. KC Boen had seven points, nine rebounds and six steals. Susee picked up seven points, eight rebounds, three assists and three blocks in addition to her eight steals.

While the Trojans’ starters did much of the damage against Gaston on Wednesday, Hall had to rely on her reserves much more on Friday night when the team got into foul trouble against the Cougars, and she was impressed with what she saw from junior Mariah Pranger.

“(She) has really shown some leadership, and she really had to run the court quite a bit and take control on Friday night when we played Country Christian,” said Hall. “Lakin, KC and Amelia were all out with fouls, and she really stepped up, and she did against Gaston too. She’s really shocked Peter and I.”

Hall also pointed to sophomore guard Taylor Brown as a surprise contributor off the bench in the first two games for the Trojans. Brown had a solid all-around game Wednesday against Gaston, posting up five points, five rebounds, four steals and three assists.

“Taylor Brown too has really shocked us,” said Hall. “She’s come out and done some great things for us.”

With plenty success to build upon early on, the Trojans hope to continue their roll this week.

“I would say, definitely, where the girls are right now is way past where they were last year,” said Hall. “They’ve really picked it up a notch.”

Kennedy was scheduled to travel to Gervais Tuesday to take on the hosting Cougars (0-1) before playing host in the JFK Basketball Classic tournament this weekend.

Kennedy (2-0) opens the tournament Friday night against Elgin (0-3) and plays a yet-to-be-determined opponent on Saturday.