CONWAY — The Kennett High boys’ basketball team clinched a home playoff game thrillingly on Tuesday night with a 59-53 victory over Oyster River at the Peter Ames Gymnasium. The Eagles took the lead for good with 1:34 to play on an old-fashioned three-point play by senior, tri-captain Riley Fletcher.
“The win clinched the seventh seed with three games to go,” Coach Jack Loynd said Wednesday. “We played hard for 32 minutes and played as a team. We beat a good basketball team.”
Kennett didn’t get much rest or time to celebrate as Wednesday the hometown flock made the long trek to Kingston to play Sanborn. The Indians (7-8) topped the boys from Conway 70-54.
The Eagles sit at 11-5 in Division II, trailing only ConVal (lost 55-41 at home to Hanover on Tuesday) and Hanover, both 15-1; Bow, 14-1; Lebanon, 12-2; and Hollis-Brookline and Pelham, both 12-3.
Fans were treated to a see-saw contest at the Nest on Tuesday with neither team ever leading by more than six points. The visiting Bobcats (7-8, tied for 11th with Sanborn and Kingswood) put the defensive clamps on the Eagles early. Senior, tri-captain Wyatt Arriaga got KHS on the scoreboard with 4:48 to play in the opening quarter when he knocked down a three-pointer to put his side in front 3-2.
Kennett got a three-pointer from Grady Livingston with 27 seconds left in the period to tie the game at 10-10 heading into the second quarter.
KHS took its largest lead of the first half when senior, tri-captain Justin Olson and Arriaga hit back-to-back three-pointers 25 seconds apart to make it 16-13.
The boys from Durham got back-to-back treys of their own from seniors Kyle Miller and Joseph Morrell in the final 90 seconds of the quarter to regain the lead at 24-21, but Kennett's Will Eaton converted a layup with two ticks left on the clock to make it a one-point game, 24-23, at halftime.
The third quarter was just as tight with the teams essentially exchanging baskets, but Kennett outscored Oyster River 14-13 to knot the contest at 37 after three frames.
Early in the fourth quarter, Arriaga buried a three-pointer from the top of the arc with 6:29 to play to put Kennett up 42-40. OR responded with a three-pointer by Morrell to regain a 43-42 lead.
Arriaga again connected from three-point land on the left side with 5:22 left to put the hosts in front 45-43, but 23 seconds later, Morrell hit another trey to give the visitors a 46-45 lead.
After Fletcher tied the game at 46-46 with a free throw, Ben Mattioni of Oyster River nailed the fifth three-pointer of the quarter to give the Bobcats a 49-46 lead with 4:16 to play.
Fletcher knocked down a pair of foul shots at the charity stripe and Olson followed with a spectacular left-handed layup with 3:05 to go to put the Eagles back in front 50-49.
After Morrell hit a 12-foot jumper to give the Bobcats the lead 51-50, Olson drove to the hoop, attracted two defenders and dished off to Fletcher, who made the basket and drew the foul.
Kennett iced the game by going a perfect 6-6 at the line after that with Arriaga tickling the twine with 53 seconds left; Livingston connecting with 15 seconds remaining and Kyle Perry putting the icing on the victory cake with 6 seconds left.
“That was a game,” Loynd said, smiling afterward and holding up his hand to show no nerves.
Arriaga led all scorers with a game-high 23 points. Olson added 10; Fletcher, eight; Eaton, seven; Livingston, five; Perry, four; and Evan Dascoulais, two.
Kennett is scheduled to close out the week by hosting Bow on Friday at 6:30 p.m.
Prior to Friday’s game (at approximately 6:10 p.m.), the Eagles will recognize seniors Wyatt Arriaga, Braeden Bailey, Will Eaton, Riley Fletcher, Jackson Gordon, Jackson Ogren and Justin Olson for their commitment and dedication to the program over the past four years.
“This is a great group,” said Loynd. “I’ve coached some of these guys from the days of the KNBA.”
Kennett went 1-1 on the road the week before winning 64-20 at Plymouth (1-14) on Feb. 19 and falling 81-45 at Hanover on Feb. 21.
At Hanover, the game was tied 15-15 after the opening quarter, but the Marauders outscored KHS 24-12 in the second period to lead 39-27 at intermission. Hanover stayed hot from the floor in the third quarter with another 24-point burst to lead 63-35 heading into the fourth.
Olson led Kennett with 16 points, while Arriaga added 12; Fletcher, six; Gordon, five; and Eaton, Ogren and Perry, two each.
Against Plymouth, the Eagles sprinted to a 24-8 first-quarter lead and never looked back. They led 28-10 at halftime and 48-16 after three frames.
Eleven Eagles scored in a balanced attack with Livingston finishing with a game-high 11 points, followed by Arriaga, eight; Ogren, seven; Dascoulias, Fletcher and Olson, six each; Eaton, five; Gordon and Matt Nordwick, four each; and Bailey and Nick Houghton-Laclair, two apiece.