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Kennedy deals Champion 1st loss

Staff photo / Brian Yauger Warren JFK’s Andrea Ryan drives by Champion’s Sam Strock during the Eagles’ win Saturday.

CHAMPION — A hot shooting start by Kennedy gave the Eagles the early edge they needed. As the game went on, Champion battled back, but that early edge made the difference as Kennedy took down the Flashes, 65-52.

The Eagles (3-1) strung together a 25-point first quarter, hitting shot after shot.

As Champion started catching its bearings, Eagles coach Marc Morgan had a balancing act to maintain with his team’s aggression. Leaning too hard into passive or aggressive play could open a window for Champion to strike.

“It’s always the toughest thing to do in the game,” Morgan said. “When you make a ton of shots early, you get a good lead and (think) ‘How much do you keep pushing it?’ Then they came out in the second half and, as usual, made adjustments. The game slowed down a little bit for us, we couldn’t make it as up-tempo, so you’re not getting easy looks. Then all of a sudden they make a shot or two and now they’re back in the game again.

“I told them that the first three minutes in the second half will be huge, because they’re going to make a run. You just can’t let that keep going. Slow it down. Make a bucket here, give me an easy one. … You’re just trying to weather the storm for 16 minutes. That’s where we played it. I don’t want them to not shoot it, but I just wanted to be more selective in how we attacked the basket.”

All-state soccer stalwart Andrea Ryan was a big part of that success. Ryan has been making her presence known on the court as well. The freshman has been the team’s starting point guard this season, and finished Saturday’s game with 17 points.

“She played really, really well. Obviously, you got to look at some of the mistakes that she makes as a freshman, you know, and that’s just how the game works. But as she gets better, we’ll get better. We need to see the floor a couple of times in transition in the first half. There’s girls wide open. And wide open with shooters? Got to love life,” Morgan said.

Senior Ava Darney also tallied 17 points. Marina Sanders added 14.

The loss marks Champion’s first blemish on the season.

Despite their best efforts, including a pair of 15-point outings from Bella Meyer and Kennedy Caldwell, each time the Flashes would inch back, the Eagles would stretch the lead again.

“We fought back. I think the closest we got was seven, and we had a couple of chances there to cut it to under seven, we just couldn’t finish and then they would come back and hit a shot,” Flashes coach Michael Cole said. “They’re good, and they can put those kinds of performances on. It was a combination of their skill and ability and we just did not get into them on the ball as much as we should have early.

“We lost some shooters that we worked on trying to get. We made the adjustments in the second half. I thought we had a pretty nice second half.”

Champion is off until Dec. 11 when it takes on Garfield. That’s plenty of time to take inventory of what needs improved going forward and putting it into action.

“I talked about this in the locker room. We have four games, which is a nice sample size,” Cole said. “I’m going to redrill through everything, pick about two or three things that we’re not doing very well and just kind of like really focus on that. Then probably about Thursday, we’re probably going to go watch Garfield play LaBrae, then the rest of the week is going to be prep on Garrettsville.”

Kennedy’s schedule doesn’t slow down, as the Eagles face Newton Falls on Monday then open the league schedule against Mogadore on Wednesday.

byauger@tribtoday.com

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