By PEDRO VELAZCO Kokomo Tribune | Posted: Sunday, December 13, 2015 1:00 am
Kokomo channeled its inner hunter Saturday night, hunting the ball in packs defensively, then going into a feeding frenzy on loose balls.
Kokomo had five offensive rebounds less than two minutes into the game against Frankfort on Saturday to open a 6-0 lead and feasted on rebounds and turnovers to go open up a 42-15 lead at halftime. The Kats cruised to the finish line for a 67-49 victory at Memorial Gym.
“For us, our strength is together, our strength is in the pack,” Kokomo coach Matt Moore said. “We’re more confident when we’re standing side-by-side instead of individually. We’re going to need that [next] Friday as we head into a conference game [at Marion].
“We were not able to have that start a year ago against Marion and that’s why [Saturday] getting out of the gates the way we did was very valuable to experience that, and we put the game away early.”
The Kats (2-2) stunned Frankfort (2-4) with swarming, disruptive defense, transition offense, and aggressive rebounding. Kokomo forced Frankfort into 13 turnovers in the first half and 3-of-17 shooting. On Kokomo’s offensive end, the Kats hit 20 of 37 shots and took 11 offensive boards before halftime.
“We came out and we weren’t ready to play,” Frankfort coach Jared Catron said. “We weren’t doing the little things, boxing out, which is something we take great pride in. We were hurrying our shots. They got us to hurry shots and when we’re not on rhythm, it’s tough for us to score.”
Frankfort was the team victimized Saturday night, but the greater importance for Kokomo was getting itself ready to play at Marion this coming Friday.
“They’re on my mind, I’m not going to be dishonest about that,” Moore said of Marion. “We made sure that we understood [Saturday] night was important for us to start getting the hunter mentality. We’re coming off a game where we competed at a high level and we need to go over there as the hunter, not the hunted.”
Kokomo got eight points from center Marcelle Kenner in the first quarter. Two of his buckets were in the post and two on Kokomo’s offensive rebounds as Kokomo led 16-7 after one quarter.
The Kats sped up the offense in the second quarter, taking turnovers or defensive rebounds coast to coast for scores. Kokomo had six transition buckets in the second frame, four from Brevin Beard, who scored all eight of his points in that quarter.
“I thought Brevin brought a lot of energy off the bench and really did a nice job of not settling for jump shots. he attacked the paint well, he attacked the rim well,” Moore said.
Kokomo’s advantage on the glass was glaring. The Kats outrebounded Frankfort 51-23 and took 22 offensive rebounds. Kyle Wade grabbed 13 rebounds, Jordan Matthews eight, Keenen Wheeler seven and Jeron Gray six.
“Kyle, what can you say, he’s a ball magnet, just goes and gets it. That’s a toughness thing,” Moore said. “Jeron’s leadership has been outstanding all year long. He’s in the right mind frame for us now.”
Matthews led Kokomo in scoring with 14 points. Kenner had a dozen, Ty Sparling nine, Wade eight and Gray seven.
Kokomo backed off defensively in the second half and played bench players heavy minutes in the fourth quarter. Frankfort won the third and fourth quarters, trimming the lead to 11 points at 60-49 deep in the fourth quarter before Kokomo iced the game at the line.
Jarrod Smith led Frankfort with 22 points and Jordan Campbell added 13. The Hot Dogs played without regulars Carter Smith, who is out injured, and Malik King.