Behind McGlone and Kelly, Kennett edges Unionville, 54-52
● By Richard Gaw
By Richard L. Gaw, Staff Writer
Balance, John Wooden was once quoted as saying, is the most important component in basketball, but were the great coach to have witnessed the first four games of this year's Kennett High School basketball team, he would have seen a glaring lack of it.
In a recent loss to Sun Valley, for instance, Coach Brian Urig's team took a 31-24 lead at halftime and proceeded to cough it up in the second half, on continued, brazen attempts to drive the lane when there was no lane open enough to drive, and forced passes that led to turnovers and steals. Watching a basketball coach witness his team fail to execute proper balance is like experiencing a gentleman slowly becoming a madman and Urig, with an 0-4 record, seemed headed for such a transformation.
Then came Kennett's Dec. 17 game against rival Unionville, when a new kind of Kennett team emerged, and its leader was point guard Connor McGlone.
Behind McGlone's 17 points and patient floor leadership, Kennett got in the win column for the first time this season, with a gutsy, stick-it-out 54-52 win against arch-rival Unionville, before an exuberant crowd at the Indians' home court.
After a first quarter where both teams traded off baskets – which included three-pointers by Kennett's Matt Kelly, and Unionville's Kyle Goodier and Drew Menninger – Kennett clung to a slim 15-14 lead. A long three-pointer by McGlone gave Kennett an early lead in the second quarter, which he extended less than a minute later when he drove coast to coast after a steal, scored on the layup, was fouled and converted the free throw to give his team a 21-16 lead.
Later in the second quarter, Unionville's Jared Hockenberry exchanged words with Kelly, which led to Hockenberry's flagrant technical and subsequent ejection. Hockenberry's dismissal ignited a fire in the belly of the Kennett squad, who went on a quick run that was highlighted by a three-pointer by William Ward and a driving layup by Kelly with 3:30 left in the quarter, leading to Kennett's 30-19 lead at halftime.
"Matt played very, very well today," Urig said of Kelly. "He brings a lot of intensity and emotion to the game. He knows what this rivalry means. The best thing about Matt today is that he was engaged in the whole game. He wasn't caught up in the moment. He used his emotions in positive ways to fire up his teammates and battle through this."
As the second half began to unfold, what a battle it became. In the process of outscoring Kennett 18-11 in the third quarter, Unionville found its outside shooting, with clutch jumpers from reserves Scottie Miller and Andrew Burich contributing to those by starters Pat Clark, Jr., and Austin Fullington. With Kennett's lead down to four points in the closing minute, however, McGlone drove the lane, scored, was fouled and converted his free throw to give Kennett a narrow 41-37 lead at the end of the third quarter.
Let the record books show that McGlone scored just three points in the fourth quarter, but record books are merely a numerical thumbprint, and do not convey the ball control and leadership McGlone displayed in leading his team to victory. While Fullington exploded with 12 of his game-high 20 points in the fourth quarter, McGlone kept his team's cool. With six minutes left and holding to a one-point lead, McGlone found Tyler Nunn for a three-pointer, and on Kennett's next possession, he scored on a three-point layup to give Kennett a 50-43 lead.
"There is no question in my mind that Connor McGlone is one of the top point guards in the area," Urig said. "He makes good decisions. He has a knack for the game. He knows when its time and when it is time to set up. He's in total control out there."
With 2:27 left in the game, Clark's jumper near the key tied the game at 50, and after Urig called a timeout, freshman guard Mitchell Kosara drove the lane for a twisting reverse layup to give Kennett a two-point lead with less than a minute left. On Kennett's next possession, Fullington fouled Kelly, who made one of two free throws. Although Fullington scored on a weak-handed short jumper, Kelly was fouled on the in-bounds play and made one of two free throws to seal the win.
"We've shown things in bits and pieces in our first few games, but we've never been able to sustain it, and even though we hit a lull but then we were able to make plays, which is something we haven't yet been able to do," Urig said. "Basketball is a game of runs, and when Unionville was making its run [in the second half], we were able to make a couple of plays to keep them at bay, which is what we hadn't done so far this season."
In addition to McGlone's team-high 17 points, Kelly had 14 points for Kennett, followed by Nunn's nine points. After Fullington, Unionville was led by Clark with 12 points, and nine points by Goodier.
Kennett, now 1-2 in the Ches-Mont American Conference and 1-2 overall, hosted West Chester-Rustin on Dec. 22, and will again travel to Unionville to play the Indians at Unionville Christmas Tournament on Dec. 29. Unionville, now 1-2 in the conference and 2-5 overall, traveled to Sun Valley on Dec. 22.
To contact Staff Writer Richard L. Gaw, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.