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Kennedy Boys Top Xavier In Shootout, 85-76

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CEDAR RAPIDS Their point totals this season wouldn't suggest a basketball team that wants to get up and down the floor and score, score, score.

The Cedar Rapids Kennedy Cougars came their game against 42nd Street rival Cedar Rapids Xavier averaging a smidge under 60 per game. That's a significant improvement from last season but still not exactly lighting it up.

But light it up and score, score, score was exactly what Kennedy did Tuesday night in an 85-76 offense fest that was entertaining to watch and had to be a blast to play. It was the 12th consecutive win in this series for the Cougars.

"That's the way we practice every day," said Kennedy's Drew Heitland. "We were finally able to convert it into a game."

Kennedy (8-1), ranked 10th in Class 4A by The Gazette and Iowa Prep Sports, pushed the ball in transition and spread the floor in its half-court offense to take advantage of the penetration skills of point guard A.J. Carter and his mates. What that led to was a bunch of inside bunnies, though even the long-distance shots were falling on this night.

The Cougars shot it at a 61-percent clip, making 8 of 14 3-pointers. They hit 12 of 16 shots in a 29-point third quarter that pulled them away from a tied game at the half.

It was everyone getting in on the act, too. The 85 points, by the way, were the most Kennedy has scored in three years, one less than they had in a January 8, 2011 blowout win over Sioux City West.

"We just spread them out," said Carter, who finished with 26 points. "We knew their big guys didn't want to come outside the lane, so we just attacked and things were open right away. We just kept exploiting what was open."

This was exactly the way first-year head coach Jon McKowen has wanted his boys to play. Go fast, fast, fast.

"I was happy with our shot selection and our aggressiveness on offense," he said. "The last couple games, coming out of break, for some reason we were a little hesitant on the offensive side. Our guards did a great job of getting to the paint in balance tonight and finishing.

"We had a bunch of assists from point-blank shots. We finished shots tonight, too, which always helps. Making open 3-point shots and shots around the hole is all you need to do. The kids did it tonight."

To be completely truthful, neither team was very good defensively.

Xavier (5-4) got 20 points from junior wing Adam McDermott and a double-double out of center Matt Nelson (17 points, 10 rebounds) that included a thunder dunk in the closing seconds that almost took the basket down. The Saints had enough offense to win most ballgames, just not this one.

"We were able to push the tempo and get them running. Play our speed," said Heitland. "Then when we got them on their heels, we were able to knock down the open shots and get easy layups."

Guard Cole Murdock tied Heitland with 16 points each, making four treys, including a couple that didn't seem to be great shots. But when virtually everything is going in, you might as well hoist it.

"We've been shooting the ball really well in practice the last couple of days," Carter said. "We just wanted to continue doing that. Tonight, it felt like just every shot fell."

Kennedy has a huge game Friday night against top-ranked Dubuque Senior. Xavier plays at Class 3A third-ranked Dubuque Wahlert.

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