*This story was featured in the Dec. 4 edition of the Hastings Tribune.
KENESAW — The Kenesaw Blue Devils defeated the Blue Hill Bobcats by a score of 57-54 in the first game of the 2015-16 boys’ high school basketball season. Despite entering the game off the bench because of a previous injury, Senior Preston Schnitzler led the Blue Devils with 17 points and 7 rebounds.
The visiting Blue Hill Bobcats jumped out to an early lead after a solid first quarter performance from Senior Jayden Hamel. Hamel was efficient early, scoring ten first quarter points on 5-of-5 shooting. Hamel’s pair of first quarter twos and threes helped the Bobcats solidify a 15-10 lead after the first quarter. Hamel finished with a game-high 19 points.
The Blue Devils responded in the second quarter thanks to a 10-point quarter from Schnitzler. Schnitzler established a rhythm early in the second quarter, despite battling a sore tendon in his lower leg that left his ability to play in question. He played a major role in helping his team chip away at the lead and get within single digits during the second quarter. The Bobcats remained ahead 31-25 at halftime.
Kenesaw Head Coach Jack Einrem raved about Schnitzler’s skill on both ends of the floor saying, “Preston is just a gamer and it’s so easy for me to just sit on the bench and watch him,” he said. “He’s a floor general out there, he shoots the ball well, defends well and is just a super player.”
Kenesaw increased their offensive output in the third quarter, outscoring Blue Hill 17-8. Sophomore Tyson Burr made a deep three-pointer that capped a run for the Blue Devils. Burr’s five third-quarter points, along with an improved team effort on defense, allowed Kenesaw to take the lead late in the third quarter.
The Blue Devils never relinquished that late third quarter lead, despite struggles from the free throw line the entire night. Kenesaw hung on to earn their first win of the new season.
Considering the Blue Devils’ current level of health, Coach Einrem says he was pleased with how his young team played saying, “We were playing some younger kids, we’ve got two sophomores starting and all of the kids on the bench were sophomores,” he said. “They’re learning and didn’t make those same mistakes in the second half.”
Einrem went on to say he was happy that his team won, but that they still had plenty to improve upon before their next game.
“Well we didn’t do a good job checking out on free throws and they pushed us under the basket,” he said. “There are some good things we did offensively, but defensively we have to sag off our man and help defense better.”
Blue Hill’s next game is December 4 at home against Doniphan-Trumbull at 8:00 p.m., while Kenesaw will travel to Alma, NE to take on Alma at 8:00 p.m. on December 5.