NORTH POTOMAC — Johnny Fierstein tumbled to his backside and pumped his fists back and forth as soon as he hit the deck. The 6-foot-3 senior forward didn’t mind that he was blanketed by two Kennedy defenders. He had to beat the clock.
“Time was running down, just had to get it up there,” Fierstein said.
The contested, buzzer-beating 3-pointer a few feet behind the arc dropped, pushing the Cougars’ lead to four after two quarters, and served as a jolt of momentum in the early minutes of the third quarter. Soon after, No. 12 Quince Orchard built a 12-point cushion and sat on it the rest of the way to down No. 22 Kennedy on Friday at home, 67-55.
“That was definitely a momentum push,” Kelly said of Fierstein’s 3. “We were struggling toward the end of that half.”
Fierstein’s last second 3 capped a 7-0 spurt to conclude the first half, giving Quince Orchard a 37-33 halftime lead. The run then ballooned to 16-1 and a 46-34 advantage three minutes into the third quarter.
Quince Orchard (20-1) knew what they were going up against. Kennedy isn’t shy about utilizing their staple 1-3-1 zone defense the entire game, as well as playing all five starters for a full 32 minutes.
For the better part of the second and third quarters, the Cougars’ game-plan of meticulously working the ball around the perimeter until a lane was busted came to fruition.
Fierstein (18 points) commanded the high post, and ducked beneath the zone when the time was right for layups at the rim.
“We knew we had to attack,” Kelly said. “That 1-3-1 zone, if they sense you’re nervous or anything, they’re going to attack and score on you. We knew we couldn’t just pass the ball back and forth. … We knew if we drove and found open people, we’d beat their zone.”
Kennedy toyed with Quince Orchard’s cushion, but the closest they got down the stretch was 54-48 when Jason Nyamey (17 points) converted a three-point play with four minutes to go. After that, the Cavaliers sputtered, only making 3 of 10 shot attempts to muster seven points in the final four minutes.
“We wanted to get the tempo up, wear them down,” Quince Orchard Coach Paul Foringer said. “In the fourth quarter, they weren’t as quick and aggressive as they were in the first. I think that was the difference. We wore them down.”
Daniel Dorsey chipped in with 17 points and Kelly added 12, both for the Cougars. Overall, Quince Orchard shot 59 percent from the floor on 20-for-34 shooting. Kennedy, meanwhile, shot 41 percent on 19-for-46 shooting.
The win for Quince Orchard, coming on senior night, locks up home-court advantage in the 4A West playoffs. Foringer recalls they’ve only lost three times at home the past two years, with one of them coming to Clarksburg in the second round of the playoffs a year ago.
This year, nine of 15 players are graduating, including Fierstein and Kelly, Foringer’s “Batman and Robin,” and slippage means a successful tenure at Quince Orchard goes by the wayside, forever.
“This is their last go around, for all nine of them,” Foringer said. “They’ve set the table by winning tonight. The table is set. … They did their job, and we’ll see how it goes from here on out.”