by Roger Wistar
A first-half buzzer beater by Tavien Kemp '18 gave the boys varsity basketball team all the momentum it needed to earn a 70-60 victory over Choate on Feb. 17.
Kemp and fellow captain Ryan O'Neill '18 paced the Bearcats with 22 and 24 points, respectively. Starter Kyle Jenkins '20 added 11 points and 7 rebounds as the third Hotchkiss player in double figures. Adria Amabilino Perez '18 added six points and six rebounds.
Although the Choate attack came out scorching, hitting its first six shots to take an early 16-4 lead, a stingy Hotchkiss pressing defense managed to blunt their momentum and bring their offense back down to earth. In the end, both teams would finish with roughly the same shooting percentages – 46.5% for Choate and 41.4% for Hotchkiss.
The long ball proved to be an advantage for the visitors throughout the day, and they would finish with 10 three-pointers on 41.7% shooting from long distance.
But Hotchkiss would ultimately win the game on defense, forcing the Wild Boars into 23 turnovers, including timely steals in the second half when Choate was attempting to retake the lead.
Kemp and starting point guard Kobi Greene '18 proved to be particularly adept at the head of the press, forcing Choate into numerous turnovers, including a ten-second call, and generally disrupting their offensive rhythm.
In one particularly pretty second-half play, Greene stole the ball in the frontcourt, and then passed the ball behind his back to a streaking Perez, who drove the lane and laid it in to give Hotchkiss a 58-50 lead and send the home crowd into a frenzy.
Although the game featured artistry on both sides, it also included intense, physical play. The two teams combined for 38 personal fouls, including 24 in the second half alone. The charity stripe would also be a decisive advantage for Hotchkiss, as they made more free throws (16) than Choate attempted (12).
In the first half, it seemed as if the game were getting away from Hotchkiss from the jump, with Choate racing out to the early margin. But the Bearcats responded with an 11-4 run of their own, keyed by nine points from Kemp, to cut the margin to 19-15.
Choate pulled away once again to a double-digit lead at 27-17, but Hotchkiss produced another rally to claw back to 33-29, and then Kemp hit a fall-away shot from long distance as the horn sounded to send the home team into the locker room down just one, 33-32.
The second half was much more one-sided, as Hotchkiss took the lead immediately on a Jenkins basket and hardly looked back. Choate would briefly regain the lead at 36-34 with yet another three-pointer, but a basket and a free throw from Kemp gave the Bearcats a lead they would not surrender for the rest of the half.
The game remained close, with Hotchkiss never leading by more than nine until the final minutes and Choate always battling back, including tying the game once more at 50-50 with just under five minutes to play.
Fouls piled up quickly for both teams in the half, and the Bearcats put Choate into the bonus with more than eight minutes to play. Ultimately the situation would not prove damaging, however, as Choate did not make it back to the line for a one-and-one until Hotchkiss was also in the bonus.
With the win, the Bearcats now hold a three-game winning streak heading into their last week of regular-season play, with upcoming games against Berkshire, Kent, and Loomis before a possible playoff berth.