Hot first quarter leads Avon Grove to 65-30 win
12/20/2016 01:00PM ● Published by Richard Gaw
To both first-year coaches – Brian Grashof of Kennett and Roy Blumenthal of Avon Grove – last Friday's Ches-Mont League early-season tilt served as a continuing showcase for what both teams will bring to their respective 2016-17 seasons.
Kennett entered the game having amassed 60-point efforts in two losses in the Unionville Tip Off Tournament, while Avon Grove clicked off two early wins, followed by a tough loss to Coatesville the night before, so both Grashof and Blumenthal looked at the game as a season premiere application of what they had seen -- and improved on -- thus far.
For Blumenthal, Avon Grove's decisive 65-30 victory illuminated an effective full-court press, a swarming defense and an unselfish offense that had all 12 players get in the scoring column. For Grashof's young squad, the loss unveiled a list of teachable moments that they can improve on.
Two components that are expected to drive the Avon Grove team this season were revealed soon after tip-off: a tough defense, and the hot hand of Brandon McCullough. The Red Devils employed a full-court press that limited Kennett to just four free throws in the first quarter, while McCullough went on a shooting rampage, scoring 13 of his game-leading 16 points in the first quarter -- including three three-pointers -- that gave Avon Grove a 23-4 lead at the start of the second quarter.
Kennett point guard Mitch Kosara fought valiantly through Avon Grove's full-court press in the second quarter that led to early baskets by Kerry Tomasetti and Owen Dougherty, but Avon Grove's man-to-man defense kept Kennett out of sync on offense for the remainder of the half. With 5:20 left in the half, a three-pointer by Destin Murphy staked Avon Grove to a 28-8 lead, and by halftime, Blumenthal's team was ahead 35-14.
"Coming off of the Coatesville loss, I was looking for a lot of energy tonight," Blumenthal said. "I needed to see how we reacted to working on a press, and I was happy the way we did it. We ran it against Coatesville and we were semi-successful, and I wanted to see it against other teams."
While Kennett never led in points-by-quarter, they did manage to get some of their key players into the scoring column. Ben Lesher hit three baskets and a free throw in the third quarter, followed by Kosara's second bucket in the fourth quarter, but Kennett was met with a patient, ball-control offense from Avon Grove guard Scooter Whiteside, who continually set up Karl Forst (8 points), Aldred Russo (7 points) and Murphy (8 points) with scoring opportunities in the second half, while scoring 9 points himself.
Although the win jumped Avon Grove off to an early overall record of 3-1, Blumenthal is continuing to look at his team as a clean slate, waiting to be filled in and defined.
"To be honest, I'm still trying to find out [about my team], so that I may find out who plays well with each other," he said. "I want my players to see the game like I see it, and they're getting there. They're really working hard.
"The emphasis is [continuing to be] on defense. If we can hold teams down, then I think we have enough athletes to score some points."
To contact Staff Writer Richard L. Gaw, e-mail email@example.com.
Kennett 4 10 9 7 30
Avon Grove 23 12 13 17 65