KENNETT SQUARE >> Buzzy Hertz doesn’t know exactly how long it’s been since Kennett swept its regular season basketball series against archrival Unionville, but he knows it wasn’t any time recently.
However long, that streak ended Tuesday as the host Blue Demons finished strong to hold off the Longhorns, 48-40, at Reynolds Gymnasium. Kennett nipped Unionville by a point in the first meeting back on Jan. 21st.
“That’s the first time in a very long time,” Hertz acknowledged. “I’ll have to ask Mr. Harvey about that.”
Well, athletic director Sean Harvey doesn’t know either. He’s been at Kennett since 2015, so it breaks a stretch of at least seven years.
The latest installment of the Route 82 rivalry certainly wasn’t pretty – more like a grinding defensive slog – but Blue Demons’ head coach Jacob Gray was pleased to see his squad finish the outing with a difference-making 13-3 surge.
“This team has been through a lot and they all trust each other,” he said. “Once they get rolling and start communicating, they can be really good.”
Now 5-1 overall, Kennett improves to 4-1 in the Ches-Mont American and has sole possession of first place in the division with five more regular season contests to play. Unionville falls to 1-4, 3-4.
“This one was a little ugly. You know it’s against Unionville, so it’s going to be heated and close,” said Hertz, one of four players honored on Senior Night.
Trailing for the first time all evening, 37-35, early in the fourth quarter, the Demons looked to Hertz and he delivered nine straight points to spearhead the comeback. It started with a 3-pointer, continued with a pair of strong moves to the basket, and concluded with a couple free throws with 37.3 on the clock, turning the deficit into a 46-40 lead.
“I didn’t think I needed to score, but I knew if I got some opportunities and I was open, I was confident and let it fly,” said Hertz, whose given name is Andrew but has been known as Buzzy since he was a toddler.
“He has mature more during his high school career than any player I’ve ever,” Gray added. “It’s really been fun to watch. He’s put in the work in the weight room and on the court.”
The late spurt was important. But Kennett was solid defensively, especially in the second half, surrendering just 18 points after halftime.
“We knew we would have to come ready to play defense because (Unionville head coach) Chris (Cowles) is going to have a stout defensive plan against us,” Gray said.
“We came out a little slow in the second half and rushed some shots unnecessarily,” Hertz added. “We needed to tighten things up (on defense) and get back to our offense, so we talked about it in the huddle heading into the fourth. That’s when we started to get it into the lane and getting kick-outs.
“We also stopped getting lost on screens and started clamping down on the boards.”
Senior Sean Neylon paced the Longhorns with 20 points, but he didn’t get much help. Nobody else on the roster had more than two buckets.
“I think we had some easy buckets that we missed tonight,” Cowles pointed out. “Our offensive execution isn’t at the level it needs to be so we have to be elite on the defensive end. We’ve gotten better (on defense) the last week or so, but we had some breakdowns.”
Thanks to four made 3-pointers in the early going, the Blue Demons raced to an 18-7 lead before Unionville seemed to wake up. Held scoreless in the first, Neylon scored seven points to help the ’Horns finish the half with a 10-5 rally, and cut the deficit to 27-22.
“The main problem was not getting stops in the first quarter and that allowed (Kennett) to play comfortably,” Cowles said. “It’s a lot easier to hit shots when you are ahead.”
Midway through the third, Hertz was whistled for his third foul. And with him on the bench, Neylon nailed a couple long 3-pointers that gave Unionville its only lead to set the stage for the finish.
Junior lefty Zach Lower poured in all of his 13 points in the first half for the Demons, and Luke Augustine chipped in eight points.
“Everyone on our team knows that (Lower) can hit threes, and pretty soon everybody in the league is going to know it,” Hertz said. “When he is hot, we give him the ball.”
Kennett 48, Unionville 40
UNIONVILLE – Regenye 1 0-0 2; Neylon 7 3-6 20; Casten 2 0-0 6; Nowoswiat 0 2-2 2; Lenkaitis 0 2-2 2; Tayoun 1 0-0 3.Totals 13 8-13 40.
KENNETT – Augustine 2 2-2 8; Frazier 1 0-0 2; Schmidt 3 0-0 7; Forte 1 0-0 2; Ebaugh 1 0-1 3; Hertz 4 3-4 13; Lower 5 0-0 13. Totals 175-7 48.
Unionville 10 12 12 6 – 40
Kennett 18 9 8 13 – 48
3-pointers: Neylon 3, Casten 2, Tayoun, Augustine 2, Schmidt, Ebaugh, Hertz 2, Lower 3.