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Defense spurs Sun Valley to win over shorthanded Kennett

KENNETT SQUARE >> The notion of turning defense into points is nothing new to basketball. But what the Sun Valley boys did to Kennett at the start of the second half on Monday in Ches-Mont American action proved that when it’s done with precision, it can very quickly turn a tight battle into a blowout.

Following a lackluster first half, the visiting Vanguards cranked up the defensive pressure and intensity, and the result was, essentially, the difference in a 47-33 triumph. Sun Valley opened the half with a monster 15-0 surge, and that loomed huge in what ended up a 14-point final margin.

“You can see what we are capable of, in spurts,” said Vanguards’ head coach Steve Maloney. “It wasn’t necessarily what (Kennett) was doing in the first half. We needed to wake up. And just playing that style wakes us up.”

Now 6-3 in the league (12-6 overall), Sun Valley’s won six in a row and has moved into the top-10 of the District 1 5A Power Rankings. The undermanned Blue Demons fall to 1-7, 2-17.

“For three-quarters of the game, we played well,” said Demons’ head coach Ryan Dunbar. “We fought and we play hard. We’re getting a little better each game.

“We are building something, not just for the rest of this season but for next year.”

On a roster with just one senior, Kennett didn’t even have that as top-scorer, senior guard Reagan Pelletier, missed the contest with an undisclosed injury. The Blue Demons hadn’t played since falling to Avon Grove by 26 nine days earlier. But when it was discovered that the Red Devils had played an ineligible player, it officially became a 2-0 win. Kennett lost its previous 10, however, including a 54-41 decision at Sun Valley.

The Demons got a 3-pointer each from Bo Freebery and Jackson Lower, and led 10-8 after one period. But the Vanguards scored the first six of the second quarter to take the lead for good.

Kennett was outscored 8-3 in the stanza and trailed 16-13 at the half. But it wasn’t until the start of the second half when Sun Valley took control, spurred on by some full-court pressure as well as half-court trapping.

“After that first half, I don’t think there was one satisfied person in our locker room,” Maloney said.

“We heard (Kennett’s) star player was out, so I guess we took our foot off the gas a little bit,” added junior guard Noah Griffin.

“We were slow in the first half. When coach (Maloney) got into the locker room, he was amped up. He knows we can play better than that.”

The ultra-aggressive defense was designed to reinvigorate the Vanguards, and it worked. A precarious three-point lead ballooned to 31-13, turning the game on its head.

“We pulled out a very intense win against Upper Merion on Saturday,” Maloney explained. “We are in a stretch of three games in four days. They just needed to wake up a little bit in the second half.”

Sun Valley forced six turnovers in the quarter (14 in all), outscored the Demons 23-12, and never looked back. Guard Charlie Gizzio came off the bench to score all of his team-high 12 points in the second half for Kennett, but it was too late.

“(Sun Valley) came out ready to play in the second half and we didn’t,” Dunbar said. “Early in the second half we kind of lost our minds, lost our composure and looked young – which we are.

“I actually thought (Sun Valley) would (throw on the pressure) from the get-go. It caught us off guard that they didn’t press from the start, but we knew the press was coming. It was a lack of execution, and we looked soft at times.”

The Vanguards amassed 17 offensive rebounds, and limited the Demons to just three conventional buckets the entire contest.

“They killed us on the glass. We are undersized in a lot of spots,” Dunbar said.

“Our bigs, Bucky Grayson and Blaise Eldridge, did a great job,” added Maloney, who notched his 100th career win in nine seasons at Sun Valley. “Even our guards, in the second half, they did a better job helping them out. That was another point of emphasis.”

Griffin led all scorers with 16 and senior Chris Kwaidah added 11 points, all in the second half.

When asked about pushing the tempo to start the second half, Griffin said: “The deflections, the turnovers, they all lead to fast breaks and transition offense, which is the easiest way to get buckets.”

The Blue Demons have three more games to play this season, and Dunbar is hoping to get Pelletier back perhaps as soon as Thursday.

“He is a kid that can really score the ball, and that opens things up,” he said. “Without him, it puts guys in roles they aren’t used to.”

Sun Valley 47, Kennett 33

Sun Valley                             8 8 23 8 — 47

Kennett                                 10 3 12 8 — 33

SUN VALLEY – Harper 2 0-0 4; Grayson 3 0-2 6; Kwaidah 5 0-1 11; Eldridge 2 2-5 6; Griffin 6 4-4 16; Robinson 1 0-0 2. Totals 19 8-14 47.

KENNETT – Freebery 2 2-2 7; Smith 1 0-0 3; Lower 2 0-0 6; Schumacher 2 1-2 5; Guzzio 4 0-0 12. Totals 11 3-4 33.

Three-pointers: Kwaidah, Freebery, Smith, Lower 2, Guzzio 4.



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