Balanced JFK Runs Past Yorktown
Kennedy’s senior center capped a fast break with an emphatic dunk, a fitting end to an intense and unyielding 77-53 win over Yorktown in boys basketball matchup on Wednesday at Kennedy.
“I think it was our mentality,” Hickey said of Kennedy’s killer instinct. “We knew that if we let them stay in the game they would stay in the game. We just knew we had to put the nail in the coffin and we had to close them out.”
The Gaels defeated visiting Yorktown before a packed crowd with steadfast pressure on both ends of the court.
A trapping 2-2-1 press and a fast-paced offensive attack kept Kennedy in the driver’s seat the entire game. The pace was too much for the Huskers to handle.
“Our conditioning [was the difference],” Kennedy head coach Frank Kelly said. “Our conditioning and our weight training, no doubt. We took it to them. At halftime, I told them our conditioning was going to take over in the second half. They [Yorktown] are a good team. They played hard. We substituted a little bit more so maybe we had a few more horses.”
“They played four-and-a-half quarters of basketball,” Yorktown head coach Steve Veteri said. “We played a quarter and a half. That’s it in a nutshell. I told our guys, they wanted the game from start to finish. We wanted it at certain times, and we didn’t work hard enough.”
Kennedy had four players in double-figures: senior forward Dan Healy (25 points), senior point guard Frankie Kelly (19), Hickey (13) and junior forward Jordan Hardy (12).
“I think our cuts were sharp,” coach Kelly said. “Our screens were shot. I think we shot pretty well. We got our transition game going. We want to run. We want to secure the rebound and go.”
The Gaels began the game in man-to-man defense but led by just four after the first quarter thanks to 11 points by Yorktown junior guard Donte Dixon. Kennedy switched to a 3-2 zone to start the second quarter and, despite eight more points from Dixon, increased its lead thanks to its aggressive press.
“I think our press [was the key],” Hickey said. “They couldn’t handle it. I think we played really well on defense. And our offense, we were just so in condition and in shape we just wore them down physically and mentally.”
“They hurt us a little bit with the screen and roll,” coach Kelly said. “The one kid [Dixon] killed us in man with the threes. We paid a little more attention to him in the second half and it worked out.”
Kennedy’s 3-2 zone showed its effectiveness in the third quarter. The Huskers, who were missing injured forward Chris Schmitz, scored just 10 points quarter, their lowest-scoring quarter of the game. Kennedy had 24 to break the game open.
Dixon scored 19 of his game-high 26 points in the first half. Senior guard Jordan Moody, Yorktown’s other top scorer, scored 12 of his 15 points in the second.
“The game’s going to come to both of them,” Veteri said. “Once they’re both on the same page and they realize their strengths, we’re going to get some good looks. They’re going to be a hard matchup for people once they get going.”
The task of containing the quick and athletic Moody — which was critical to the Gaels’ game plan — fell on the shoulders of Jordan Hardy.
“We had our Jordan against their Jordan, and he did a pretty good job,” coach Kelly said. “We put a lot of pressure on this kid… and he did a nice job shutting him [Moody] down. I’ve been on him pretty good in practice and he responded pretty well today.”
“That was our main objective – to slow him [Moody] down,” Frankie Kelly said. “Our main objective was to hold him under 10 [points], but that didn’t work. Jordan Hardy did a great job on him. He wore him down.”
Kennedy entered halftime with momentum thanks to a running 3-pointer by Kelly at the buzzer that followed a missed 3-point attempt by Dixon.
“We had a good look on Donte shooting that three,” Veteri said. “It could have been a four-point game, instead it turns into a 10-point [game] with that buzzer-beater. That’s a dagger. We come out flat. That’s a big swing right there. I’m not taking anything away from Kennedy. They were the better team on the floor right now. I give them all the credit in the world.”
The Gaels pulled away early in the third quarter with an 11-1 run, sparked by their aggressive defense. The pressure gave the Huskers a lot of trouble and forced a slew of Yorktown turnovers, leading to quick, easy baskets for Kennedy.
Frankie Kelly credited Healy with triggering the break by throwing timely outlet passes and his teammates with running the floor.
“[We wanted] to run and wear them down,” Frankie Kelly said. “Our wings ran and got easy buckets. That’s how I think we started our run.”