CHAMPION - For the first four games, the John F. Kennedy Eagles played short-handed. For Champion, the team was at full strength.
Robert Seger and Michael Roscoe joined the Eagles in the past two weeks from an extended break following the football season, and both players saw their first game action of the season.
Those two players returned to the lineup just in time. Kennedy used a total team effort, especially on the defensive end, to control a 68-55 win over the Golden Flashes.
"We're getting acclimated with reteaching and getting them in the lineup," Kennedy coach Shawn Pompelia said. "You can't start something without the whole unit, knowing the entire complexity of what we're trying to run."
Of the two, Seger almost didn't play, but after missing the first three games, the senior decided he missed the team.
"I'm thankful coach (Pompelia) brought me back," Seger said. "I missed those times. I'm never going to get them back, really. I'm quite happy that I came back and played."
In the win over Champion (1-5), he added nine points to the balanced offensive offensive attack. Overall, three Kennedy (2-3) players made it until double figures.
Seger said that it will take a team effort in order for Kennedy to be successful this season.
"Everyone's got to come and play their A-game," Seger said. "When we bring our A-game, we're going to be hard to beat. We've just got to keep playing together, and we'll get it done."
As much as the balanced offense helped, the Kennedy defense allowed the Eagles to have a 24-point lead at the 3:16 mark in the third quarter.
Although the Eagles' defense forced 13 turnovers, the team did force Champion to take a lot of low-percentage shots. Kennedy held the Golden Flashes to 27.2 percent shooting from beyond the 3-point line, with Champion chucking up 21 3-pointers.
In the first three quarters, the Golden Flashes shot 32.4 percent from the floor.
"I was really proud of the way our young men came out, sat down and played defense," Pompelia said. "We've been stressing that. We're going to win games playing defense - that's the bottom line. I really thought that we played pretty good defense, especially in the first half."
Despite being down over 20 points for much of the third quarter, the Golden Flashes did come charging back late in the third and in the fourth quarter.
With 2:14 remaining in the game, Champion closed down the Kennedy lead to 60-47, following a Nick Mackey free throw. The deficit proved to be too much for Champion to overcome, however, as Kennedy hit free throws down the stretch.
"That's what we expect from these kids - to fight for four quarters," Champion coach Doug Foster said. "I'm just trying to get these kids to play that hard every game, and if they can play hard for four quarters, I think that we can be a pretty dangerous team."
As for Kennedy, the Eagles face Holy Name on Friday in a North Coast League matchup. Seger said it will be tough to beat the Cleveland-based team.
"All those Cleveland teams that we play are great teams," he said. "So, we've got to come out and shut them down."