AURORA -- Quickness is something you can't always teach and the Kenston boys basketball team had a bit more to give in a pivotal 16-9 fourth quarter as the Aurora saw its season end 57-51 in Division I sectional action.
"Our guys battled and fought hard," said AHS coach Steve Fleming.
While Aurora missed some easy shots and took some quick shot attempts in the final quarter, Kenston used its speed in a 3-guard set to its advantage on offense and defense for a damaging 12-7 run.
When senior guard Brian Henderson made 1-of-2 free throws in the double bonus with 40.9 seconds left, Kenston used a 12-7 run to gain command of the game 53-49.
Junior Gavin Blunt had a steal and slam dunk in transition to cut the lead to 52-49 with 1:41 left. After missing a shot, AHS junior guard Cade Huffman stole the ball and converted a layup to cut the Bomber lead to 53-51.
Aurora (8-16) fouled guard Michael Swartz with 15.2 ticks left, but Swartz calmly sank both tosses to push the lead to 55-51. After an AHS turn-over, Ryan Kooser hit two more free throws with 9.7 seconds left to seal the win.
"We had some possessions where their pressure speeded us up at key moments," noted Fleming. "Kenston has good speed and some athletes, and they made us pay at times. I think one of the things this team realized is that you have to grind it out on both ends of the court."
Early on, the game was a battle, as Aurora had a 10-0 run, then the Bombers answered with a 7-0 spurt. The Greenmen were up 31-30 at the half, but Kenston's Josh Kain had exploded for 19 first-half points. He finished with 25 points and 5 treys.
Senior guards Donovan Boyle and Alex Ely hawked Kain in the second half as he was held to 2 of 5 shooting and only 6 points. Ely and Boyle are the team's only seniors.
"Boyle is a true-blue collar player who will do whatever it takes to help win,"said Fleming. "Ely became a really big spark off the bench, especially on the offensive end and with his shooting. They both have a lot to be proud of."
Despite being held scoreless in the first quarter with only a few touches, Blunt had a strong game with 11 points, 8 rebounds and 2 steals. Huffman led with 13 points, and added 5 rebounds and 2 assists.
Junior point guard Zach Elsawy contributed 10 points and 3 assists, while junior post James Robinson played strong defense on the 6-5, 205-pound Kooser, who was held to 7 points and 3 boards.
Robinson added 8 points, grabbed 9 caroms, had 3 blocked shots and made one 3-pointer. Ely chipped in 5 points, while Boyle added 2 points, 2 assists and 2 thefts and sophomore forward John Arnold grabbed 4 rebounds and had 2 points.
Earlier in the week, AHS edged Twinsburg (7-16) 56-54 in a wild sectional opener March 1 on the road. The Greenmen built a 24-point lead and had to fight off an intense comeback, as Twinsburg exploded for 28 fourth-qaurter points.
A driving layup by Blunt with 37 seconds left was the game winner and a Twinsburg shot with 2 seconds left missed the mark. Aurora had 23 turnovers.
Blunt poured in 20 points and Huffman had 18 points -- 15 in the first half -- plus 5 boards and 2 assists. Robinson had 6 points, 6 rebounds and 2 blocks.
Ely contributed 4 points and dished out 4 assists, Elsawy had 4 points, Boyle had 2 points and 2 assists and Arnold added 2 points.
Twinsburg was led by freshman wing Kenny McElrath, who had 14 of his 16 total points in the second half.