North nearly pulled off a City Series upset in front of a home crowd on Tuesday night, but Firestone guard Evan Kennerly came up with big plays when his team needed them at the end of a 61-60 win.
Kennerly led all scorers with 23 points, but didn’t control the game in the way in which coach Dave Milo is accustomed.
“It’s almost like we were asleep,” Milo said. “We weren’t up for the game. I can’t put my finger on it. Evan’s better than that. He’s a good ballplayer, he just has to come out 100 percent every game. I need him to be the vocal leader and the leader on the floor.”
Despite not quite controlling the game the way his coach wanted, Kennerly stepped up and became that leader when the Falcons were in danger of getting upset in the fourth quarter.
Kennerly scored four of the Falcons’ final six points and came up with a key block on what could have been the game-winning shot with 20 seconds remaining and the Falcons leading 59-58.
The Vikings (1-4, 1-1) came out of the gate strong, surprising the Falcons by taking a 27-23 lead into the locker room at halftime.
The Falcons (4-1, 2-0) performed like the better team in the third quarter, though, scoring the first 10 points of the second half.
Eight of those 10 points came from 6-foot-5 sophomore forward Raybon Lewis.
The Falcons were without 6-foot-2 senior forward Miles Kirk.
But Lewis picked up the slack on the inside, finishing with 12 points, 14 rebounds and four steals.
He also did a good job neutralizing Johnathan Jones, the Vikings’ main threat in the post.
Jones, a 6-6 junior center, went off for 16 points and 10 rebounds in the Vikings’ victory over Kenmore Friday.
On Tuesday, he was held to just 10 points and six rebounds.
“Raybon is only a sophomore and I’ll tell you what, it’s just amazing because every practice you see him get better,” Milo said. “If we didn’t have Raybon right now I’d be afraid to see where we’re at.”
Fans saw a wild finish in the fourth quarter.
The Falcons led 48-41 after their strong third quarter but the Vikings mounted a 9-0 run to take a 56-55 lead with about five minutes remaining.
Trarell Balknight, who finished with 22 points and eight steals, spearheaded the run with five quick points.
That was when Kennerly’s composure kicked in. He answered with his first two baskets since the first possession of the fourth quarter.
After making a jumper with a little over two minutes remaining, he grabbed an offensive rebound and put it back to give the Falcons a 59-56 lead.
After North cut the lead to 59-58, Kennerly came up with the game-saving block. Jae-Quan Jones grabbed the rebound and found Kyrell Allen for a layup that put the game away.
Allen scored nine points in the fourth quarter for the Falcons and finished with 15.
Edward Harris was instrumental in keeping the game close for the Vikings, scoring 10 of his 12 points in the fourth quarter.