Division II Boys: Kennett ends West’s season with stunning 41-33 upset

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Photo by Stacy Harrison. More photos available at https://stacyharrisonfreelance.smugmug.com/

MANCHESTER, NH — Advocates for a shot clock to be adopted for high school basketball in New Hampshire will want to send a copy of the Division II opening round game between Manchester West and Kennett to the offices of the NHIAA.

Kennett High set basketball back about 50 years, Tuesday night, and it worked like a charm.

Having been blown out by West just three weeks ago (64-45), Kennett returned to Manchester armed with a new strategy, straight out the playbook of legendary Princeton University Coach Pete Carril. The result was a shocking 41-33 upset victory, which propelled the 12th-seeded Eagles into the D-II Quarterfinals, Friday night at No. 4 Coe-Brown Northwood.

“It’s disappointing but I’m not going to take anything away from what we accomplished this season. I’m proud of this team,” said West Head Coach Rich Otis. “And I have to give credit to Kennett. They played a great game and they deserved to win.”

The strategy employed by the Eagles was simple — refuse to allow the 5th-seeded Blue Knights to play the fast-paced, “organized chaos” type of game they feel most comfortable with. To accomplish this, Kennett looked to eat up as much time off the clock as possible on each offensive possession. When they finally did, the Eagles made sure to have two or three players peeling back on defense to prevent West from running the floor on the fast break.

As a result, the pace of play to somewhere between “snail” and “sloth.”

 

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Photo by Stacy Harrison. More photos available at https://stacyharrisonfreelance.smugmug.com/

But more damaging to the West offense than Kennett’s slow pace of play, was an injury to Max Shosa. The Blue Knights’ senior forward sustained an ankle injury in the first quarter. He stayed in the game but was visibly hobbled, severely limiting his lateral movement and ability to elevate.

Shosa, a double-double machine, averaging more than 22 points and 12 rebounds a game, was limited to just six points and five rebounds.

“He couldn’t move,” said Otis. “He tried but this is a kid who has been averaging 22, 23 points a game for us. It made it very difficult.”

Shosa’s injury opened the door for Kennett center Daven Bailey to dominate offensively, finishing with a game-high 20 points.

Before Shosa’s injury, West looked very much like the team that had put together a 12-6 record in the regular season. Guard Tevin Edmunds (8 points) drained an early 3-pointer to spark the offense, while the Blue Knights’ field goal held Kennett to a single field goal, while building an 11-6 lead after one quarter.

From the second quarter on, with Shosa no longer a “go-to” option, West’s offense struggled mightily. Guard Will Tanuvasa tried to pick up the slack, finishing with a team-high 12 points. His 3-pointer from the corner gave West a 20-15 lead at intermission.

But if the West shooters were cold in the first half, they went “arctic winter” in the second. Unable to run-and-gun the way they like to, the Blue Knights’ managed just four field goals over the final 16 minutes. And while Kennett wasn’t exactly lighting it up from the field, the Eagles chipped away and eventually took control of the game.

Bailey set the tone, taking a nifty backdoor bounce pass from Jayden Jackson and pounding home a baseline dunk to spark a 6-1 run, tying the game, 21-21 with 5:48 left in the third.

Tanuvasa temporarily stopped the bleeding with a spectacular baseline drive of his own, scoring on a scoop shot from behind the backboard to give West a 24-21 lead. But the Blue Knights would go scoreless over the final 4:48 of the quarter, allowing Kennett to take a 26-24 lead.

Tanuvosa dished to Edmunds for a layup to tie the game early in the fourth but West couldn’t seize the momentum. A power drive by Bailey and a three-point play from Jackson were part of a 7-0 run, putting Kennett in command, 33-26. West was never able to get closer than four points the rest of the way.

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Photo by Stacy Harrison. More photos available at https://stacyharrisonfreelance.smugmug.com/

 

 

About this Author

Bill Gilman

Bill Gilman is a veteran journalist with 35 years of experience covering community news and sports in New England. He and his wife have two grown sons and two perfect granddaughters.

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