Bryan provides spark as Western secures playoff berth
LA PALMA – With the regular season winding down, Kennedy's boys basketball team entered Friday night's game with hopes of moving up in the Empire League standings and securing a CIF-SS playoff berth.
A perfect half from Justin Bryan helped Western keep the Fighting Irish at bay, as Western won, 51-39, to clinch a spot in the playoffs.
Pioneers coach Josesph Aihara was happy to see his team respond so strongly after a two-point loss to third-place Pacifica on Wednesday.
"Wednesday was a sleepless night," he said. "We got out to a good start (Friday) which was important."
SLIDESHOW: OCVarsity Hot Shots: Friday's basketball
Bryan, who came off the bench, scored all 19 of his points in the first half.
He shot 6 for 6 from the field with four 3-pointers for the Pioneers (18-8, 6-5).
Ausjai Fusick and DeAndre Harris got the Pioneers' attack started.
The two forwards took turns cleaning up misses from Pioneers leading-scorer Jason Walker.
Six second-chance points later, the Pioneers boasted an 8-3 lead.
Bryan followed suit, scoring 10 of the next 12 points for Western as the Pioneers opened up a 20-8 lead.
The junior forward remained hot through the end of the second quarter, and Western took a 36-18 lead into halftime.
Athleticism was the name of the game in the third quarter. Walker led off by dunking on his man to give the Pioneers a 42-22 edge.
Not to be outdone, the Irish (11-12, 3-7) promptly responded with a beautiful alley-oop lay-in from Terrance Blum. Alex Chung collected the assist.
In the fourth quarter, the Irish used a 12-2 run to close the deficit to nine. Blum, who had played facilitator for most of the night, took part in a two-man game with Corey Richards as the two connected for four consecutive baskets.
The Pioneers ended the Kennedy run with a stretch pass from Humberto Monroy to Fusick, who finished the play to make it 48-37.
Monroy had a game-high five assists.
Blum led Kennedy with four assists.