by Roger Wistar
A running floater in the lane by Tavien Kemp '18 with 1.6 seconds left on the clock sealed an epic comeback by the boys varsity basketball team and secured an 81-79 victory over Canterbury on Jan. 17.
On a day when the home team trailed for 29 of the 32 total minutes of game time, the Bearcats (8-5) clawed back to take the lead in the final two minutes and force a turnover to set up the game-winning shot by Kemp.
Although the senior co-captain provided the final fireworks, it was a combined effort by Hotchkiss that rescued the team from seemingly certain defeat. Four Bearcats finished in double figures on the day, including Kemp (19 points), Ryan O'Neill '18 (23 pts), Adria Amabilino Perez '18 (17 pts), and Kyle Jenkins '20 (16 pts).
Many of these points came in a gritty second-half performance that saw the five Hotchkiss starters (including point guard Kobi Greene '18) play for the entire half without substitution. Shaking off fatigue, the quintet ratcheted up their defensive pressure, forcing the Saints into 12 turnovers over the final 16 minutes.
The most significant of these came in a pivotal late-game sequence. After Perez missed a three-point shot, he stole the ball on the defensive end and drove the length of the court to score and bring the team to within one score at 76-74. Kemp then forced another turnover at midcourt and raced to the basket, scoring and drawing a foul to put the Bearcats ahead at 77-76 and send a raucous Fowle Frenzy section into delirium.
For the majority of the game, however, it seemed as if Canterbury would prove to be the better team. After Hotchkiss jumped out to an early 8-3 lead, Canterbury roared back to take the lead at 9-8 and never looked back, leading for the entire rest of the game until that final sequence.
Hot shooting by the Saints, who finished with a 54% field goal percentage and 11 of 19 three-pointers, blunted each Bearcat comeback attempt, and the Saints maintained a seemingly comfortable lead of six to eight points for most of the game.
Hotchkiss also shot well on the day in the high-scoring affair, hitting 48% of their shots but only shooting 5-for-14 from long range.
Despite surrendering the lead late and giving up a pair of free throws to Kemp that gave the Bearcats a 79-76 lead, the Saints had one last gasp, burying a corner three with just under a minute to go to tie the game.
A miss by Perez with 33 seconds to play gave Canterbury a chance for the winning shot, but the Bearcats forced the Saints into their 16th turnover of the day. With 11 seconds remaining, head coach Yassine Talhaoui declined to call timeout, setting the stage for Kemp's heroics.