BELLBROOK —When you’re playing a team whose star player averages almost 40 points a game and 11 rebounds, there’s only so much you can do defensively to hold them off.
Bellbrook did all they could for three quarters against Southwestern Buckeye League rival Franklin and star forward Luke Kennard Friday night at Bellbrook High School, but it was too much scoring in the end and the Golden Eagles fell 64-54.
After their first meeting on the year where Kennard scored more points than the entire Bellbrook team, coach Perry Caldwell and the Golden Eagles decided to slow it down this time around.
“We tried to make them guard in space. We knew that would give us a chance. We tried to value the possession and try and get some buckets. We built that little cushion, and that was fantastic,” he said. “I told them as long as we’re in the driver’s seat, it’ll work.”
“We were trying to string it out. We wanted it to be end of game, possession basketball. They haven’t played a lot of that. They win a lot of games big and we thought we would make them play a tight one and see how they respond to that.”
Bellbrook (11-4, 7-2 SWBL Southwestern) did a good job of scrapping on every possession in the game on both offense and defense. They were playing aggressive defense which was flustering Kennard and the Wildcats, but it might have hurt them in the end when the refs started calling more fouls.
Franklin (16-3, 11-0 SWBL Southwestern) shot 35 free throws compared to Bellbrook’s 13. The Golden Eagles actually shot a better percentage on the floor — 21 of 41 compared to 15 of 41 for Franklin — but the charity stripe is what made the difference in the game. Caldwell didn’t blame it on the fouls, but he did say it was a big factor.
“…When we’re down two and we foul Kennard on the three, then we’re in trouble point. That was the turning point. They go from down two to up one, and now we’re no longer in the drivers seat.”
“We were in early foul trouble. I thought our guys played hard, I thought we played physical defensively. I don’t know if we were rewarded for it tonight. It seemed to kind of backfire on us a little. We weren’t aggressive to the hoop as them, but 13-35 at the free throw line….there’s some, but all.”
Despite the foul difference, Bellbrook led 26-19 at halftime thanks to hustle plays. They only had two turnovers and led the rebound battle 13-7. However, Kennard took over in the second half, scoring 31 of his game-high 41 points in the final two quarters. He also had seven rebound.
“The fact that they can inbound the ball and he can be from there to there so quickly, and he doesn’t even have to pass it to a teammate makes them a very difficult matchup,” said Caldwell about Kennard. “You can’t simulate that in practice. He’s a special player and he put his team on his back tonight.”
Josh Schumacher led his team with 15 points, but was one of the many guards to foul out in the final quarter. You could tell that he took the loss hard, but Caldwell said that he was proud of how his team played.
“We’re going to have to play that type of team to advance in the tournament, and I think they proved that they could be competitive. We also learned a lesson that you’re not done after three quarters,” Caldwell said.
Bellbrook is back in action at 7:15 p.m. tonight when they visit Monroe on the road.