Boys basketball: No. 3 Kennedy blasts Central Linn 68-37
Call it the eye of the storm, if you will.
A week after wrapping up the bulk of a brutally difficult non-conference schedule, the Kennedy boys basketball team enjoyed a relatively easy dip into the Tri-River Conference, defeating the Central Linn Cobras 68-37 on Friday night to remain unbeaten in league.
But the worst is still to come for the No. 3 Trojans (8-7, 3-0 Tri-River), who have yet to square off against their biggest rivals in the Tri-River Conference — No. 2 Western Mennonite (12-3, 2-0) and No. 6 Santiam (10-5, 2-0), the defending 2A state champion.
"We're prepared for them," Kennedy sophomore Emorej Lynk said after Friday's win over Central Linn.
Lynk's confidence comes in part from the Trojans' non-conference schedule that saw them play the top six 3A teams in the state.
"It's been tough," Lynk said. "We've had a tough schedule. A lot of good teams that we've played."
And while Kennedy is just 1-5 in those contests, every game but one has been decided by single digits, with some coming down to the final posession.
"There are some really good teams in our league, so we were trying to do everything we could to learn how to face that kind of talent and that kind of competition, and I think we did," Kennedy head coach Karl Schmidtman said. "I would have liked to have win a few more of those close games...but a lot of our leaders tend to be sophomores who are learning how to win those close games. That was nothing but good experience for us."
With the Trojans hosting the Central Linn Cobras (1-10, 0-3) to finish the week, it was a welcome reprieve from an otherwise punishing schedule thus far.
Kennedy was quick to the races Friday night, jumping out to an 8-0 lead behind heavy ball pressure that generated early turnovers that led to easy baskets.
"When we're playing at our best, our defense is creating offense for us," Schmidtman said. "I think that was the difference in the first half."
The Trojans finished the first quarter with a 17-8 lead, which ballooned to 41-13 at the half after forcing 12 turnovers in the first two quarters. Junior wing Carson Hall scored 12 of his game-high 14 points in the first half and either scored or assisted on Kennedy's first six baskets of the game.
"First half we did a great job moving the ball around," Lynk said. "We all shared it, made open shots."
"The defense should set it up for us, and we've got a lot of quick guys who can spread the floor," Schmidtman said.
Kennedy let off the gas a bit in the second half, and Central Linn took advantage to the tune of 16 points in the third quarter to cut their deficit to 52-29. But the damage done in the first 16 minutes was too much for the Cobras to overcome and the Trojans came away with an impressive win.
"Second half there was less ball movement, I guess," Lynk said. "It's kind of tough to keep the same pace for the whole game."
Hall also finished with eight rebounds, five assists and three steals in the victory. The Trojans' generosity with the ball showed in the final stat line, with Lynk and teammate Rocco Carley scoring 10 points each, followed by fellow starters Mason Boen and Luke Hall, who each netted nine.
"Everyone's feeling it," Lynk said. "If someone gets hot through the first few minutes of the game, we just continue to give him the ball."
The Trojans' versatile scoring options up and down the starting lineup has thus far been one of the team's biggest strengths this season. Lynk, Boen, Carley, Luke Hall and Carson Hall have each taken turns leading the team in scoring in different games this season, making the Trojans difficult to plan against on a night-to-night basis.
"I think that's one of the strengths of our team — from one night to the next, you might plan for Luke, but then Mason or Carson or Emorej or someone else gets hot," Schmidtman said. " I think teams will have a hard time matching up with us the way we shared the ball tonight."
Earlier in the week, Kennedy picked up a 65-38 win at East Linn Christian (5-9, 0-2).
The Trojans move on to face the Regis Rams (9-6, 0-3) on Tuesday, followed by the their final non-conference game of the season at 4A Yamhill-Carlton (2-9) on Tuesday.