CEDAR RAPIDS — Sometimes starting over from scratch with a basketball team isn’t necessarily a bad thing, and this Cedar Rapids Kennedy club is the definition of starting over from scratch.
Having 7.2 percent of your scoring back from a year ago isn’t much. Starting center Caleb Schlaak is the only Cougar to see much, if any, playing time last season.
Yet if Friday night is any indication, one thing you’ll be able to say about Kennedy in 2019-20 is it’ll play together. That’s an improvement that might just lead into an improvement in the win-loss column as well.
“High school, college, pros, chemistry is the biggest thing,” Kennedy Coach Jon McKowen said, after his team’s 68-56 season-opening win over Davenport North. “Chemistry and culture, we are continuing to work on that. Yeah, that was our biggest problem the last two years, just trying to get on the same page as each other.”
McKowen was thrilled to see an engaged group Friday night, with an emphasis on the word “group.” Four Cougars scored in double figures and Kennedy forced 27 North turnovers behind an active and aggressive defense that has become the coach’s trademark since he came to town in 2013.
Junior wing Cole Hrubes led the way with 15 points. He’s the son of assistant coach and Kennedy hall of famer Jeff Hrubes.
Schlaak added 14 and a team-high seven rebounds. The 6-foot-7 junior is an emerging player, for sure, one who will get an opportunity to shoulder a much bigger load offensively this season.
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Six prominent seniors graduated from a Kennedy team that went just 10-12 last season. The top two leading scorers, Jack Wetzel and Tyler Andrews, both left for prep school.
“We’ve got good chemistry,” Schlaak said. “We’ve all been playing together since we were really little Junior Cougars and all that. We do all the hard work in practice and don’t slow down.
“We didn’t really have a lot of good vibes coming from last year. We’re all friends this year, everybody loves each other, are there for each other, laughing and having a good time.”
Kennedy extended a seven-point halftime lead to 16 in the fourth quarter. Hrubes had three treys and 11 points in the third quarter to start that Cougars spurt.
Jayden Houston led North (0-2) with 22 points.
“It’s nice coming out with guys who play together and everything,” Hrubes said. “I thought we had great energy. There’s just small stuff that we’ve got to fix up. When we start playing conference teams, if we play with energy like that, we should be in good shape.”
“These guys, when you see somebody who has played in the game, and they are screaming and yelling for their teammate, not wondering when they are going to get back into the game ...,” McKowen said. “Cole had a great third quarter, didn’t play much in the fourth, but he was the first one cheering. I could hear him. That means something. You can’t fake that. The chemistry is good with this team. They play off each other well, and they feed off each other.”
AT CEDAR RAPIDS KENNEDY
DAVENPORT NORTH (56): Logan O’Brien 1-2 0-0 2, Quincy Wiseman 4-11 1-2 9, Cade Guinn 3-7 2-2 8, Sam Wellman 0-4 0-0 0, Jayden Houston 11-17 0-1 22, Jamal Litt 3-8 2-5 8, Jesse Cooley 1-3 0-0 3, Mike Lowery 1-2 0-0 2, Abdoul Diallo 0-0 0-0 0, Alec Brown 0-1 2-4 2. Totals 24-55 7-14 56.
C.R. KENNEDY (68): Joshua White 1-4 0-0 2, Caleb Schlaak 5-13 4-8 14, Brandtley Koske 5-9 2-3 12, Brayden Dolphin 1-5 1-2 3, Makhi Harris 1-3 2-4 5, Paul Cory 5-11 0-0 10, Mackenzie Reed 3-10 0-2 7, Cole Hrubes 6-8 0-0 15, Max White 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 27-63 9-19 68.
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Halftime — Kennedy 36, North 29. 3-point goals — North 1-13 (O’Brien 0-1, Wiseman 0-2, Wellman 0-4, Houston 0-2, Little 0-1, Cooley 1-2, Lowery 0-1), Kennedy 5-18 (J. White 0-3, Schlaak 0-1, Koske 0-1, Dolphin 0-2, Harris 1-2, Cory 0-1, Reed 1-3, Hrubes 3-5). Rebounds — North 44 (Wiseman, Houston 9), Kennedy 35 (Schlaak 7). Total fouls — North 20, Kennedy 19. Fouled out — Litt. Turnovers — North 27, Kennedy 14.
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