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South Kent wins season opener

KENT — South Kent School prep basketball began the 2023-24 season by gliding to a 91-74 victory over United States Military Academy (West Point Prep) on Wednesday, Nov. 8. 

The Cardinals dictated the tempo of the game through superior size and explosive athleticism. West Point lived and died by the long ball due to the inability to penetrate the paint with consistent success.

After concluding the 2022-23 season as the New England Prep School Athletic Conference (NEPSAC) AAA champions, South Kent’s new lineup showed they intend to keep the program’s success rolling in the coming season.

Well over 100 fans filled Brown Gym for the season opener. One spirited supporter brought a drum, which boomed each time West Point was on offense, limiting the Army of One’s ability to communicate on the court.

With just four team practices under their belt, the Cardinals got off to a somewhat rocky start offensively. Dominance on defense bought them time and kept the game even as they gelled into Coach Raphael Chillious’ high-speed offense.

Cardinal guards Jojo Wallace and Nate Guerengomba found a rhythm on the perimeter and created open space for Kelvin Odih to work his way to the rim. The trio combined for 28 points in the first half and helped South Kent build a 35-31 lead by the break. 

In the second half, the Cardinals took flight. They came out of the locker room on a mission and displayed pure dominance on both ends of the court.

Dunks rattled the rim and ignited the audience. “That rim takes damage,” said a spectator in the bleachers.

The Cardinals’ shots were all falling by this point and their defense continued to lock down the middle. Guerengomba sank four 3-pointers in the second period and inspired his teammates to get in on the action.

“It’s contagious. You shoot like that, everybody will shoot like that,” said Coach Chillious to the huddle during a second-half timeout.

West Point shot from the perimeter with considerable success, but the inability to produce in the paint prevented Army from building up steam. 

South Kent kept pushing the pace until the final buzzer and ended the game with a 91-74 win to start the new season.

“Always good to get a win,” said Chillious after the game. “We’ll take it.”

Guerengomba led South Kent in scoring with 29 points. Wallace ended with 22 points and Odih had 16 points. On defense, 6’8” forward Jacob Hogarth had too many blocks to count.

West Point was led by Jacen Halloway, who ended with 25 points. Alex Engro finished with 17 points thanks to his lights-out jumper.

South Kent laced them up again the next night, Thursday, Nov. 9, for a home game against Redemption Christian Academy. The Cardinals kept the ball rolling with another victory, 95-61.

The team will head out on the road for a stretch of away games before returning to South Kent on Wednesday, Dec. 6, to host Busche Academy for a 5 p.m. tip off.

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