Kennett earns win on Senior Night
● By Steven Hoffman
The Kennett girls' basketball team celebrated Senior Night on Feb. 2 by honoring its three seniors—Delaney Chaffin, Vicky Gallivan, and Melissa Houck—and by winning, 56-54, over visiting Sun Valley in a hard-fought game that featured big momentum swings.
Two themes emerged early on. Sun Valley forward Kate Lannon quickly established herself as a force on the offensive and defensive glass, and the defenses for both teams were going to struggle to stop the other team from scoring from the outside.
Caroline Hertz, a junior guard for Kennett, knocked down a three-pointer midway through the first quarter, a basket that tied the game and was a sign of things to come. Sun Valley responded when Lannon scored after grabbing an offensive rebound—also a sign of things to come.
Kennett closed the first quarter impressively as sophomore guard Andrea Prestianne made a nice move to get to the basket to claim a 10-8 lead, and then junior forward Alexa Hussey grabbed an offensive rebound and got the put-back for two more points. Kennett led 12-8 after one quarter.
Sun Valley's sharp-shooting guard Abby Seasock opened the scoring in the second quarter with a three-pointer to pull her team to within a point. Kennett answered with a three-pointer by Hertz. On Sun Valley's next trip up the court, Seasock once again connected from beyond the arc. Again, Sun Valley trailed by just one.
The two teams traded baskets and traded free throws, but neither team was able to gain much of an advantage. Then, with Kennett leading 23-20, Hertz connected on her fourth three-pointer of the game, sparking a run by Kennett that would only be stopped with time expiring on the second quarter.
Kennett's Maddie Fowler, a freshman, scored a basket after a nice pass by Hertz, making it 28-20. Hertz then scored on a lay-up to push the lead to 30-20. Lannon scored a basket in a bid to stall Kennett's momentum, but a basket by Prestianne and a three-pointer by Hertz soon followed. It was 35-22 as the second quarter ended.
Sun Valley didn't waste any time roaring back.
Claire Howley hit a short jumper to open the third quarter, and Lannon followed with a quick layup. Kennett's perimeter players weren't getting the same looks at the basket that they were getting in the first quarter, and Sun Valley's defense was producing turnovers. Sun Valley was also winning the battle on the offensive glass. On one trip down the court, Sun Valley grabbed two offensive rebounds before Ally Giannakarios hit a jumper, cutting the lead to 37-30. After a steal by Howley, Lannon knocked down a three-pointer. Sun Valley outscored Kennett 18-6 during the third period, and even claimed the lead—briefly—when Lannon scored a basket inside and drew a foul. Her free throw gave Sun Valley a 40-39 lead.
A clear illustration of Kennett progress and development this season was on display when the team responded to being pushed. Instead of allowing Sun Valley to continue its momentum, Kennett regrouped. Prestianne sandwiched two free throws and a three-pointer around a basket by Fowler, and just like that Kennett was on top again by four points.
At the four-minute mark, Maya Jacyszyn hit a three-pointer for Sun Valley, and the game was once again tied. But Prestianne continued her torrid pace, connecting on a three-pointer and then driving to the hoop for another basket. She also drew a foul and hit the free throw, giving Kennett a 54-50 lead.
Lannon scored another basket to cut into the lead—she had a game-high 26 points on the night—but time was running out on Sun Valley.
Kennett spread the floor and ran the clock down to 55.3 seconds before Sun Valley opted to foul. The move paid off for Sun Valley when the first end of a one-and-one was missed, keeping the score at 54-52.
Sun Valley called a timeout with 42 seconds to play to talk over strategy, but when play resumed the team couldn't get a good look at the basket. The shot was off the mark and Hertz grabbed the rebound. Kennett put the ball in Prestianne's hands, and for good reason. The sophomore was playing like she was in her senior season. Sun Valley had no choice but to foul. Prestianne calmly stepped to the free throw line and knocked down both shots to give her team a 56-52 lead.
Kennett played good defense as the precious seconds ticked away on Sun Valley. A three-point attempt by Sun Valley missed the mark, but Lannon was there to grab the offensive rebound. She managed to draw a foul, but there was only 1.8 seconds left on the clock. She hit the free throws, trimming the lead to 56-54, but there was nothing Sun Valley could do to prevent the final 1.8 seconds from ticking away. Kennett held on for a 56-54 win, much to the delight of the home crowd that turned out for Senior Night.
Prestianne scored 15 of her team-high 24 points in the second half.
“Andrea is a sophomore and she's the heart and soul of our team,” Kennett coach Vince Cattano explained. “She's a scrappy player. She's good on offense. She'll be one of the better players in the Ches-Mont League for the next two years.”
While Prestianne sparked Kennett's offense in the second half, they might not have been in the position to win the game without the 17-point outburst by Hertz in the first half. She hit five three-pointers as Kennett surged ahead.
“When she gets hot, she can score. She has hit some really big shots for us,” Cattano said.
Cattano said that the effort on defense might have dipped a little for his team during the third quarter when Kennett watched a 13-point lead vanish. He praised the hard work and talent of Sun Valley's Lannon, explaining, “She is really good. For four years, she's been killing us. We just don't have a good matchup for her. That type of player is fun to play against. It's nice to see her have success.”
Cattano said that Chaffin, who scored four points, had a good game in her last regular season home game with Kennett.
Gallivan, who will be heading to the University of Pennsylvania to play Division 1 lacrosse next year, provided solid defense throughout the game for Kennett.
Cattano said that Houck really knows basketball and can fit in at different spots and do whatever the team needs.
The victory improved Kennett's overall record to 10-10 on the season. Cattano pointed out that Kennett lost a lot of talented seniors last year, so to have such a young squad reach double-digits in victories is quite an accomplishment for the players. The Kennett coach liked that they could celebrate the hard work of Houck, Chaffin, and Gallivan with a victory.
“It was a good way for our seniors to go out tonight,” Cattano said.