Whitman High School’s Chris Lun and Ben Castagnetti weren’t delusional. Their 37-31 victory over John F. Kennedy in Friday night’s Class 4A West Region first round contest was not pretty. It was a defense-dominated, half-court centric game in which Kennedy managed three points the entire third quarter, Lun’s Vikings went 5-for-20 from 3-point land and Castagnetti tied the Cavaliers in the entire second half, 9-9.
“That win was definitely earned on the defensive end,” said Castagnetti, who scored 18 total points, just one less than the rest of his team combined. “When you hold a team to 30, 31 points you have a very good chance of winning. ... A win is a win at this point. A six-point win looks the same as a 20-point win.”
Lun echoed that sentiment.
“We’re happy with the win,” he said. “Our defense showed up to bail the offense out. Any win the playoffs is a good one.”
Even Kennedy coach Diallo Nelson found some amusement at the premium which points came by.
“If you told me we’d hold them to 37 points I’d say we’d win the game,” he said. “Then again, if you’d have told me we’d hold them to 44 points last time, I’d say we’d win the game. But I knew all season we were offensively challenged, we don’t have a lot of guys who can shoot the ball particularly well.”
As surprising as this may sound for a game that averaged just over a basket per minute, the opening possession actually yielded points, a layup from Josh Fried. Kennedy and Whitman generally traded baskets from there, neither team leading by more than seven throughout all seven lead changes in the first half and the Vikings went into the break up 21-20.
Evidently, the teams left their respective offenses with their street clothes when they trotted back out. It took 3 minutes, 12 seconds for either team to score in the second half — a Castagnetti 3-pointer — and it took Kennedy 7:06 to record its first points — a Keif Williams 3-pointer.
“Our guys are really getting their rotations down well,” Lun said. “If we’re making it harder for other teams to score, if we’re not scoring much, it makes our room for error that much larger.”
The fourth quarter was more of the same: defenses locking down, limiting clean looks. Neither team shot particularly poorly on the night, combining for 25-of-63 shooting, but as Nelson would point out, there just weren’t that many shots put up. The offenses were painstakingly patient, the defenses resolute in their schemes, and the result was the expected one: a low-scoring affair.
“I mean, that’s the way I planned it,” Nelson said. “That’s the way they play defense and the way we play defense. We want to make you shoot from the outside. In two games played here we haven’t shot the ball well. We had looks but we haven’t been a great scoring team all year ... we’re still very raw handling the basketball.”
With Richard Montgomery beating Winston Churchill, 46-45, the Vikings will host the Rockets on Monday. If weather is an issue, the game will be moved to Tuesday.
Walt Whitman 37, Kennedy 31
Whitman (17-6, 7-3) 10 11 5 11 — 37
Kennedy (13-10, 4-3) 9 11 3 8 — 31
Whitman: Ben Castagnetti 18, Kyle Depollar 6, Josh Fried 6, Max Steinhorn 3, Jake Kuhn 3, Alex Lesley 1.
Kennedy: Keif Williams 13, Michael Scott 8, Bruke Hawkins 4, Jonathan Mustamu 4, DaShawn Woody 2.