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Kennedy picks up impressive victory

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Nobody can question John F. Kennedy’s undefeated resume anymore.

The Knights traveled to Baltimore, Md., and upset Lake Clifton, 73-68, and star guard Josh Selby, the 11th-ranked player in the country according to Scout.com.

Kennedy’s star guards – seniors Jeffrey Short and Naquan Pierce – again carried the load offensively, leading Kennedy to a victory over a team that was ranked as high as seventh at one point this year by USA Today and is considered by many the top public school team in Maryland.

Short had 32 points and 10 rebounds while Pierce notched 24 points and 13 assists in the second annual Northwestern/IAABO 290 Holiday Mixer. Forward Kyle McQueen added six points and 13 rebounds, playing what coach Johnny Mathis called “his best game yet.”

I think it was great for us,” Mathis said. “We played Kennedy basketball. It’s a big win because we beat a nationally ranked team in their hometown.”

The longtime coach was asked after the victory where his team is ranked in New York City. Mathis bit his lip. The Knights (9-0), he said, are underrated, like every year, despite two city titles and another appearance at Madison Square Garden last year in the previous decade.

“We never get the credit we deserve,” he said. “It gives me something to motivate my guys, in terms of disrespect. Our goal is, like everyone else, to win the championsh­ip.”

Selby, a 6-foot-2 point guard being recruited by Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Syracuse and Tennessee, did score 31 points. He is one of the best players in the country, but Mathis would put Short and Pierce up there with anybody. The dynamic twosome have guided JFK to a perfect start with a group of inexperienced, wet-behind-the-ears teammates. Mathis was effusive in his praise of Pierce, a combo guard who has adjusted well to moving over to the point.

“He played an exceptional basketball game with his leadership and shooting,” Mathis said. “He is the reason we won the ball game.”

Mathis was pleased Kennedy had a chance to travel in the first place, win or lose. Last year’s tournament to Washington, D.C., was cancelled at the last second. The Knights were scheduled to face LeFore (Ala.), which then featured standout center DeMarcus Cousins, now a freshman at Kentucky.

“It’s a tremendous bonus each year we go away,” Mathis said. “I think it’s great for bonding, giving these kids a chance to get together. We came down a day early to give them an extra night out and they seem to be enjoying themselves. I find in the past, any time we go away and play a tough team, it’s good for us. You have to play strong to get better. You can’t play weak. We’re always willing to play anyone.”

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