Kent City girls basketball was back in action on Saturday afternoon with a JV-Varsity doubleheader against the visiting Hart Pirates.
The JV Eagles were less than a week removed from the unheard of, a basketball shutout, against Lakeview. However, the Hart junior varsity dominated their way to victory behind stellar performances from the trio of Abby Hicks, Savanna Owens and Rayah Helenhous. The Pirates also received contributions from the rest of the squad, as all players saw time at the Nest.
The junior varsity Eagles struggled to gain traction out of the gate and fell behind after the first quarter, 8-3, on a single corner triple. Things picked up slightly for the Eagles in the second, while the Pirates kept a steady pace and the teams entered halftime with a score of 17-10 in favor of Hart. The Pirates again proved too much for the Kent City junior varsity and closed the third out 27-15 before ending the game with a final score of 35-22.
The afternoon was just getting started, however, and the varsity Eagles took the court and looked to defend the Nest in front of a crowd diminished by covid restrictions and far smaller than what has become the norm in Kent City over the years.
Despite restrictions, the Kent City faithful are thrilled to be watching their home team again. Kent City fans have watched and waited for this year, as the ’21 senior class looks to make one last run at a title, after contributing three of the most successful years in the program’s history. While fans’ and Hart’s attention was once again focused on stopping the one-two punch of seniors Kenzie Bowers and Jenna Harrison, it was a player from the ’24 senior class making waves early while sporting a jersey number to match.
Freshman Maddie Geers has wasted little time making a name for herself on a team with several faces on the Kent City Mt. Rushmore still active, which is a tall task for the guard in only her third varsity contest. However, what she lacks in high school experience, she makes up for in effort, court savvy and a blossoming set of skills that will likely be integral to Kent City’s success this season. Saturday proved once again that her role in 2021 will be an important one and she established herself early with several scores, including 10 consecutive Eagle points and defensive plays that countered an early blitz by the Hart Pirates.
While Maddie Geers may be a rather new face to Kent City High School fans, there was no shortage of traditional sights on Saturday. The game featured pillars of the Eagle program: stellar three point shooting, a tenacious full court press and a desire to spread the ball around to a seemingly endless supply of shooters.
The Eagles resisted the initial Pirate flurry that left them trailing 5-0 early and closed the first quarter, 18-8.
While the Eagles seem to run player after player onto the court that is capable of scoring and playing lockdown defense, the Kent City bench is shallower than most at just 8 players. The Eagles experienced further decimation to their bench when senior Alyssa Larson went down with her second of back to back season ending knee injuries, leaving just 7 players to cycle on and off.
Despite heavy pressure and reduced oxygen intake under MHSAA mask mandates this season, the Eagles conditioning appeared to withstand the adversity. However, three-time All State guard, Kenzie Bowers found herself in foul trouble early with 3 personal fouls in the first half. Foul trouble will have to be avoided at all costs this season if Kent City is to have success with a short bench and their brand of high intensity play.
While Bowers and Harrison justifiably draw much of the attention from defenses, the squad received tremendous boosts on the offensive and defensive ends from Lexi Bowers, Taryn Preston, Emma Geers, the previously mentioned Maddie Geers and the support of junior Kierra Flegel; proving that this season will be a team effort in the truest sense of the word. Kent City managed to enter halftime with an impressive 31-14 lead that felt much closer when watching the two teams in competition.
Following the break, Hart made halftime adjustments and came out in a zone defense, after struggling in man-to-man for the first 16-minutes. Kent City recognized the switch and seemed content to rest on the sizable lead they had created in the first half. This forced the Pirates to begin pressuring the ball and attempt several corner traps. While the defense did lead to a few mistakes and a couple timeouts by the Eagles, it was quickly apparent that the strategy would not yield enough possessions to trim the gap set out in the first half. Another timeout came with 1:55 left in the third and the Eagles having extended their lead to 38-19, allowing just five points in 6-minutes of game clock and with only 10-minutes remaining.
The Pirates continued to battle in the fourth, but came up short with a final score of 50-27. Kenzie Bowers led the Eagles scorers with 17 and Hart junior, Jayd Hovey, was the game’s high scorer with 18.
The Eagles certainly looked sloppy at times, but the emphatic victory cannot be understated against a very solid Hart team that seemed to match up very well in terms of athleticism and skill against Kent City. The matchup was an early test for a squad that will be receiving every team’s best effort this season. Kent City will be back in action again on Monday as they face another challenging matchup with the visiting Grand Rapids Christian in a battle of Eagles at the Nest.