CONWAY — The Kennett High basketball program enjoyed a busy and successful summer on the hardwood around the Granite State. The Eagles recently won the prestigious seventh annual Battle at the Crossroads Tournament, and 24 hours later, on July 29, rallied from 11 points down in the second half to win the Laconia Summer League championship in double-overtime.
Throw in a second-place showing at the annual Fryeburg tourney in June, and the boys were three-for-three in bringing home some hardware.
“I can’t say enough about these kids,” said Coach Todd Giles. “They work so hard and play the game the right way. They’re just so unselfish, they all pull for each other and want their teammates to succeed, that’s what made this group a true team.”
Twelve Eagles — Wyatt Arriaga, a senior; Braeden Bailey, a senior; Evan Dacoulias, a junior; Will Eaton, a senior; Riley Fletcher, a senior; Jackson Gordon, a senior; Nick Houghton-LaClair, a sophomore; Grady Livingston, a sophomore; Matt Nordwick, a junior; Jackson Ogren, a senior; Justin Olson, a senior; and Kyle Perry, a junior — suited up this spring playing AAU basketball and then transitioned into summer action.
The team, coached by Giles along with George Olson and Carston Porter, practiced and played four days a week during the summer.
“They’re very committed, and I’ve got to give a ton of credit to the parents, too,” said Giles. “They were so supportive. At every game, we always had the most parents on hand.”
At the Crossroads tournament, which was played in Epping and Portsmouth, July 26-28, Kennett went 2-1 in pool play on July 26. The Eagles beat Exeter 50-48, fell 54-48 to Hopkinton and beat Epping 53-50 to secure the No. 2 seed in bracket play.
On July 27, the Eagles went 2-0, topping Souhegan, 42-39, and bested Laconia 52-41 in Portsmouth to reach the title game. High humidity made for difficult footing on the court, and that resulted in the finals being moved to July 28 in Epping at 8 a.m.
Kennett found the trek to Epping worth its while at the Eagles beat Milford 51-45 in the championship game.
In the Laconia league, the Eagles played all summer against Belmont, Gilford, Hopkinton, Inter-Lakes, Merrimack Valley, Winnisquam and host Laconia.
Kennett met Laconia in the championship game on July 29. The Sachems jumped out to an 11-point lead in the second half, but the Eagles, who never got rattled, reeled in their hosts for the 63-55 double-overtime victory.
“The kids worked so hard,” Giles said. “They never gave up and just buckled down."
Kennett looked like it might win the game in the first three-minute overtime period. The Eagles led by three with 20 seconds to play.
“We played great D,” Giles said, “but with 3 or 4 seconds left, (Laconia’s) center shot a three, and of course, he made it.
“Our guys never got rattled,” he added. “If anything, it made them more determined.”
Kennett outscored the Sachems 13-5 in the second overtime to pull away for the win. The Eagles were also a cool 13-14 from the charity stripe in crunch time.
Giles said the strength of the hometown flock was its ability to shoot the three-pointer and to play lockdown defense.
“I think we play an exciting style of basketball,” he said.
Kennett reached the Elite 8 last March, going 13-7 in Division II play. The Eagles gave eventual champs Pembroke all it could handle in the quarterfinals. KHS led 32-20 at halftime in Concord, but the host Spartans rallied for the 54-43 win.
Kennett lost Noah Fitzsimmons, Colby Livingston, Colby Piotrow and Cole Sweeney to graduation in June.