The fire department may not have been in the building, but the Keene High School basketball team sure was on fire for 32 minutes Friday night.
It wasn’t a question if the Blackbirds could score, but rather how many points they would score.
When the tabulating was complete, the Birds had registered a 70-29 win over Concord High and only the clock reading 0:00 in the fourth quarter could put that fire out.
While the offensive output was Keene’s third highest point total of the season, it was the 29 points allowed that took center stage.
It was the lowest point total allowed to an opponent this season by the Blackbirds. The next lowest was 41 points Keene gave up to Spaulding High eight games ago.
“For us, everything starts with our defense, specifically our pressure.” Blackbirds head coach Kevin Ritter said. “We like to get up and press people and force turnovers and get out in the open floor and we were able to start the game that way and it kept us rolling.”
Liam Johnston starred on the offensive end for Keene, as the junior guard put on an impressive all-around performance. Johnston knocked down four three-pointers, which helped lead him to a game-high 22 points. While the scoring was there, Johnson may have been even more vital with his floor vision. Throughout the night, Johnson found open teammates running the floor and his crisp passing led to easy buckets for Keene.
“Obviously I’m biased because I coach him but he might be the best passer in our division,” Ritter said. “It’s a thrill to watch him play. He makes some passes that I just shake my head at on the sidelines. He’s really impressive and he always sees one step ahead of everyone.”
The Blackbirds went on an 18-2 run to start the game, running the floor and finishing off fast breaks. Keene spread the ball around the court to find the open man and shot the ball at will.
“Obviously when you get up that big in the beginning it gives you a lot of good energy moving forward and it can be deflating to the opposition,” Ritter said. “I was just happy to see us continue to play with good habits throughout the course of the game.”
Noah Timmer, the team’s leading scorer this season, finished with 10 points. Concord’s defensive focus on him throughout the game led to open looks for the other four players on the floor. Logan Patnode finished second on the team with 12 points.
Concord couldn’t establish any offensive identity outside of the first few minutes of the second half, when it went on a 7-0 run. With the Crimson Tide clicking briefly on offense, to nobody surprise in gym’s it was Johnston who ended the run with a three-pointer. That stretched Keene’s lead to a healthy 27 points with just over five minutes remaining in the third quarter.
Keene’s 41-point victory could’ve been even greater, as it took out the starters with the game locked up already early in the fourth quarter.
The Blackbirds (10-6) will finish the regular season next week with a home game against Alvirne High of Hudson Tuesday, then a road encounter next Friday against Windham. Concord fell to 8-8.