RYAN VAJENTIC jacks up a shot in action against Oyster River on Friday. Joshua Spaulding. (click for larger version)
March 02, 2014DURHAM — Heading into the final week of the regular season, the Kennett boys' hoop team controlled its own destiny.
With three games on the schedule, the Eagles had a chance to secure the program's first home playoff berth in at least 16 years.
Coach Steve Coté's boys left nothing to chance, taking wins in all three of the games, including a playoff-intensity win over Plymouth in the final regular season home game, a win over Carroll County rival Kingswood in Wolfeboro and a victory over Oyster River on the road in Durham.
"Our program has come a long way over the last couple of years," Coté said. "I'm very proud of the hard work the boys have put in to accomplish this.
"We're definitely not going to go down without a fight," he added.
Things didn't go quite as planned to start off the game at Oyster River, as the Bobcats kept things close throughout the first quarter and actually held the lead after eight minutes of play.
"What we've found is we come out a little flat," Coté said. He opened the game up a little bit in the second quarter, hoping to break the team out of its funk and it worked, as the Eagles pulled away in the second.
"That quarter basically set the tone for the rest of the game," Coté said. "That broke us out of our funk and gave us some energy."
Two hoops from Ryan Vajentic and a three from Brandon DiLucchio had the Eagles out to a 7-2 lead in the first quarter, but the Bobcats rallied and went ahead 8-7. A Mark Lautenschlager tip put Kennett back on top, but Oyster River got two free throws and a hoop to go up 12-9 before a Lautenschlager rebound and hoop closed out the quarter, cutting the lead to 12-11.
Two Thomas Loynd free throws put the Eagles on top to open the second, but an Oyster River three gave them the lead back. A free throw from Nick Graziano got the Eagles off and running on an 11-0 run that turned a close game into a large lead.
Vajentic hit a hoop and two free throws and Graziano hit another hoop. Loynd hit two from the line and a Will Pollard hoop opened the Eagle lead to 24-15 before Oyster River finally scored again, hitting a free throw.
Kennett wasn't done, as they went on another 11-0 run, getting a hoop from Vajentic to kick off the run, then two Lautenschlager free throws and a DiLucchio three-pointer. Graziano and Lautenschlager each hit hoops to put the Eagles up 35-16 with the clock winding down on the quarter. The Bobcats did hit a three at the buzzer to send the game to halftime with the Eagles up 35-19.
A three to open the third got Oyster River on the board, but a Vajentic rebound and hoop answered. Another Bobcat three kept them hanging around, but Pollard answered with a three and Vajentic hit two free throws to keep the Eagles out in front. After another Bobcat three, Vajentic hit another two from the line and Pollard and DiLucchio each hit three-pointers to extend the lead out to 50-30.
Lautenschlager hit a free throw and Dilluchio hit six points in a row, draining a three and converting a three-point play for a 57-32 lead. A Drew McDonald three made it 60-34 before a Bobcat three closed the quarter with the score 60-37.
Oyster River scored the first four points of the fourth quarter, but two free throws from Graziano and a bucket from Vajentic answered that call. After two more Bobcat hoops, Vajentic hit another hoop for a 66-45 lead. The Bobcats converted a three-point play but a steal and hoop from Graziano, two free throws from DiLucchio and a three from Graziano put the Eagles up 73-48.
Oyster River got a three and two free throws, but McDonald and Carston Porter each hit two from the line to finish Kennett's scoring. The Bobcats got one final three for the final scoring of the game and the 77-56 win.
"We've been working hard the last couple of games to take advantage of our foul shooting and go strong to the basket," Coté said, noting his team did a nice job drawing fouls and getting to the line early in the second quarter.
And with the three wins in the final week of the season, the Eagles have done their part to earn their home playoff game.
"From our end, we've done all we can do to assure the best seeding," he said. "Now our seeding is in the hands of the NHIAA gods and the playoff rules."
Three Eagles finished in double figures, with Vajentic leading the way with 20 points, DiLucchio putting in 17 and Graziano adding 12. Lautenschlager (nine) and Pollard (eight) just missed hitting for double figures.
The Division II tournament began after deadline Wednesday. The quarterfinals are Saturday, March 8, at the home of the higher seed at 7 p.m. The semifinals are Wednesday, March 12, at UNH at 6 and 7:30 p.m. For updated playoff information, see the sports section Facebook page at Salmon Press Sports – Wolfeboro.
DiLucchio 5-3-17, Loynd 0-4-4, Graziano 4-3-12, Pollard 3-0-8, Vajentic 7-6-20, Lautenschlager 3-3-9, McDonald 1-2-5, Porter 0-2-2: Totals 23-23-77
Oyster River 56
Lewton 1-0-3, Runk 2-0-5, Clement 1-0-2, Dana 1-4-6, Conrad 6-2-16, Kerrigan 2-0-5, Gallant 2-2-7, Luczek 5-0-13: Totals 20-8-56
Joshua Spaulding can be reached at 569-3126 or email@example.com