Kingston boys’ basketball opens with 2-0 record

KHS senior Damani Thomas is guarded by Poughkeepsie’s Davontrey Thomas during Friday’s game. (photo by Phyllis McCabe)

The Kingston High School varsity boys basketball team opened its season over the weekend by winning the inaugural run of its own RYAN Tournament on the new gym floor at Kate Walton Field House. The Tigers ousted Poughkeepsie 82-71 on Friday night before earning an 83-72 win over Saugerties in Saturday’s championship game.

The RYAN (Raise Your Awareness on Narcotics) Tournament, which is played to help raise awareness about drug addiction, was named in the memory of Ryan Kelder, nephew of Kingston head coach Ron Kelder, who died of an overdose in 2015 a month before his 25th birthday. (See sidebar.)

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Though it took a team effort to earn the tournament trophy, the title game may have been viewed as a battle between two stars: Kingston’s Chris Wright, named the tourney’s MVP, poured in 29 points in the win, while Saugerties’ heralded eighth-grade phenom Dior Johnson exploded for 43. Wright, Johnson, Kingston’s Damani Thomas, Goshen’s Zack Foley and Poughkeepsie’s Niyal Goins were named to the All-Tournament team.

Though the Sawyers have a star-in-the-making in Johnson, Kingston played with greater balance throughout, with Damani Thomas (14 points), Brian Moore (12 points) and Thomas Huleatt (11 points) contributing offensively.

The Tigers struggled early, missing its first eight shots. But Saugerties was also shaky, and nearly three minutes in the teams were locked in a 2-2 tie. Kingston wound up winning the quarter 14-12, and they’d win every other quarter as well. The key stretch came in the second half of the third quarter, when the Tigers went on a 16-6 run, including 10 points from the free throw line.

It was a game where the referees might have been in danger of wearing their whistles out: 59 fouls were called, and though Kingston’s shooting percentage from the charity stripe was not as good as Saugerties’, they made up for it with quantity over quality. Kingston hit on 28-of-49 free throw attempts, while the Sawyers nailed 25-of-30.

One night earlier, Wright led the Tigers with a career-high 38 points in their 82-71 win over Poughkeepsie. He’d scored 25 by halftime and 34 through three quarters before cooling off. Moore scored 11 of his 16 points in the second half, while Thomas (15 points) and Fritz Genther (seven points) also pitched in.

The Tigers were up by 15 in the second quarter, but Poughkeepsie clawed their way back to within six entering the half. The Pioneers continued chipping away in the third, coming to within 46-44, before Wright peeled off three straight three-pointers to put the Tigers well ahead.

Poughkeepsie got a balanced attack out of Goins (21 points), Davontrey Thomas (18 points) and Tremell Reeves (17 points), but it was not enough to make up for Wright’s career — to date — night. Eighteen of Wright’s 38 points came from downtown.

The 2-0 start to the 2017-18 season bodes well for a team that went 10-10 a year ago, especially given the quality of the teams they beat. Wright, Thomas and Tyquan Watson are all returning seniors, with Moore, Jimmy Moot and Garrett Warnecke junior veterans of the varsity squad. Kingston is rounded out by six new players: Huleatt, a transfer from Mount Academy, is the lone new senior. He’s joined by juniors Genther, Chris Bamba, Timothy Gaton, Calief Housen and Daviel Jackson.

The Tigers next game saw them hit the road against Burke Catholic on Thursday, Dec. 7. They’ll be back home to host Goshen on Wednesday, Dec. 13, followed by a tough stretch of six straight games on the road through mid-January, including stops at Newburgh, Monroe-Woodbury and Valley Central. They won’t play at Kate Walton Field House again until they host Washingtonville on Tuesday, Jan. 16. Including that game, Kingston has a favorable schedule, which sees them play seven of nine at home to close out the regular slate, including a game against Middletown on Thursday, Feb. 15.

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