Kennedy boys bring home fourth-place trophy
Following the conclusion of the Kennedy boys basketball team's 39-28 victory over Santiam in the fourth-place game at the Pendleton Convention Center on Saturday, the Trojans were in rare territory.
It was the second time in as many seasons that the Kennedy boys had rebounded from a day-one loss at the state quarterfinals, only to win back-to-back games and come home with the trophy in the 2A consolation finals.
"To my knowledge, I don't know if it's ever happened," Kennedy head coach Karl Schmidtman said. "These seniors got to go to Pendleton three out of their four years in high school. It's pretty cool."
The Trojans (22-8, 13-3 Tri-River Conference) followed the same road that took them to a fourth-place finish in last year's state tournament, falling to the eventual state runner-up, only to outplay two higher-seeded teams in the second and third day of competition.
Kennedy opened the tournament with a 72-42 loss against the top-seeded Columbia Christian Knights (28-3, 16-0 Northwest) on Thursday and followed with a 55-44 victory over the No. 4-seed Oakland Oakers (25-4, 13-1 Central Valley) on Friday, leading up to the team's placement match win over Tri-River rival Santiam (23-9, 11-5) on Saturday morning.
It was as good a sendoff as any have seen at Kennedy High School for a senior class that included posts Nick Suing and Rocco Carley, wings Carson Hall and John Tallon and guards Angel Dela Rosa and Brandon Salazar.
"These guys have played a lot of basketball over the years," Schmidtman said. "They're going to be tough ones to replace. There's five of them who have been solid contributors, and then John Tallon who joined us this year and had some great minutes at the tournament."
Fittingly, it was the team's seniors who provided the biggest contributions in the final game of their high school career on Saturday. Led by a game-high 13 points from Hall, along with 12 points and five blocks from Carley, the Trojans rallied from an 8-0 hole after the opening quarter to outscore Santiam 39-20 over the final three quarters of play.
Schmidtman credited the team's continued commitment to defense, even in the face of a difficult first eight minutes, as a testament to Kennedy' tenacity with their backs up against the wall.
"Even in the first quarter, I thought our defense was playing pretty well, Schmidtman said. "We didn't score at all, so obviously their defense was playing great. But luckily our defense played well and kept them to just eight points, giving us our own chance to make a run in the second quarter."
Hall was the lone player among either team to score in double figures, most of which came on a trio of 3-pointers, as both programs combined for their lowest-scoring output of the season.
But the Trojans would not have even been in position for a second-consecutive trophy at state if not for the play of junior Luke Hall in the consolation semifinal the day before.
Facing an Oakland team that had lost just three times all season coming into Friday's game — including a preseason loss to Kennedy in December — the younger Hall had one of his biggest offensive performances of the season. The junior guard posted a game-high 21 points on 6-of-8 shooting to go along with a perfect 8-for-8 performance from the free throw line. Along with 15 points, 12 rebounds and three blocks from Carley, the Trojans got out to a 32-21 halftime lead and expanded their advantage to 40-23 to keep the Oakers at a double-digit deficit for most of the second half.
"Luke did a good job of finding his shots," Schmidtman said, comparing the performance to a 20-point outing Hall had in the second half of the Trojans' first-round playoff win over Heppner. "He's just so quick; he's a tough player for anybody to guard." In the tournament opener, Columbia Christian simply had too much offensive firepower, racing out to a 10-0 lead before putting the game out of reach with a 27-6 scoring advantage in the second quarter.
Carson Hall was the lone Kennedy player in double figures with 16 points.