Conquerors win division crown | Boys basketball
By KRIS HILL
Covington Reporter Assisitant Editor
February 7, 2012 · 6:19 PM
Kentwood’s boys basketball team has something many of its South Puget Sound League North division rivals don’t have: certainty.
The Conquerors, who capped off a three game winning streak with a 49-39 victory at home Monday night against the Ravens from Auburn Riverside, assured themselves of the No. 1 seed out of the North into the league playoffs Friday at ShoWare Center.
But several boys and girls teams in the North played in tiebreaker games on Wednesday night after the Reporter’s deadline.
Kentwood quietly celebrated after beating Riverside by cutting down a net from one of the hoops in the gym but early in that game things looked a bit shaky for the Conks.
In the first quarter there seemed to be a lid on both buckets. Neither Kentwood or Riverside seemed to be able to score.
It wasn’t until more than three minutes had passed before Prince Ligon, a 5-5 senior guard for the Ravens, hit a jumper to move the score to 2-0.
From there, Riverside went on a 7-0 run and went up 14-7 to finish the first period, but Kentwood answered by scoring 20 points in the second quarter to take a 27-26 lead at the half.
Kentwood made some additional adjustments at halftime and came out on a roll, going on an 11-0 run in the first four minutes and change of the third quarter.
From there, the Conks never looked back, holding off the Ravens to clinch the North division title.
“It feels good,” said Taylor Jones of winning the division. “It was our expectation. To be here is kind of refreshing. In this league there’s a lot of teams that could have won this.”
Seniors Jeremy Smith and Jones led Kentwood in scoring, with 17 and 14 points respectively.
It was a good way to wrap up the regular season after losing for the second time on Jan. 31 to Mount Rainier. The Rams beat the Conks by 13 points six days before Kentwood went on to win the division, something experts early in the season predicted would be won by Mount Rainier, or maybe even Kent-Meridian.
“Last week we had a bad game,” Smith said. “We just shook it off in practice. Saturday was a big game and we took it seriously. In the beginning of the season everyone doubted us. We knew that we could win this. We knew that we could go on to bigger and better things.”
Kentwood bounced back from the defeat with a 13 point win over Tahoma on Feb. 3 then a crucial victory over Kent-Meridian at home on Feb. 4.
At halftime, Kentwood had a 10 point lead over K-M, but the Royals were able to cut the Conks lead to single digits twice in the second half including making it close in the waning moments of the game.
With 4:26 left in the game a Joe Kramer jumper made it a 59-45 Kentwood lead but then K-M pushed the pace in an effort to get back in it and the strategy nearly worked.
Mike Banks hit a three pointer in rhythm then Gary Bailey followed that up with a three ball from the wing. Denniko Howard drained a jump shot with 2:29 left to cut the lead to six.
After a timeout during which the packed gym was going nuts Banks cut the lead to four with a lay in off a fast break.
A series of turnovers — two by K-M and one by Kentwood — was then followed by a Jones jumper which pushed the Conks lead back out to 61-55. Austin Benson wrapped up the scoring at the free throw line with 5.6 ticks left on the clock when he made a pair of free throws for the 64-58 victory.
“I think we showed what we’re about,” Jones said. “I think we showed that we can play. We’re kind of focusing a little more. We know what we’ve got to do to play well. We’re kind of deadly when we focus, when we play good defense because that leads to offense.”
Jones finished that game with 18 points followed by Benson’s 15, Smith’s 13 points which including a trio of three pointers, and Kramer’s seven points.
Smith explained that Kentwood has suffered lapses during games that were six or seven minutes long so the biggest thing they’ve taken away from the past week has to been to keep any further lapses “nice and short.”
“We can always get better,” he said. “The way we’ve been playing, we should be able to win it all.”
Jones added that he believes the Conks have proved themselves.
“We can do some damage if we play well,” Jones said.
Kentwood faces Curtis, the No. 1 seed out of the SPSL South division, on Friday at 6:30 p.m. at ShoWare Center.
Meanwhile, on Monday night, Kent-Meridian and Mount Rainier finished in a tied for second place.
K-M beat Auburn 67-65 and Mount Rainier defeated Kentridge 77-69.
The Royals and the Rams split their two meetings this season. They played in a tiebreaker game for the second and third seeds out of the North on Wednesday night at Auburn High.
Also on Monday night, Tahoma beat Kentlake 75-62, which resulted in three teams vying for the final two playoff spots: Tahoma, Kentlake and Kentridge.
Kentlake coach Ron Charrier explained the tiebreaker in an email.
“We finished in a tie with KR and Tahoma for fourth,” Charrier wrote. “Since there are two spots up for grabs, they go by a point system on who beat who.”
Since Tahoma beat Kentridge twice, the Bears had the most points, and since Kentlake split with both, the Falcons are No. 2 while Kentridge is No. 3 in the tiebreaker for fourth and fifth places.
On Wednesday night Kentlake played Tahoma in a mini-game, two eight-minute quarters, with the winner getting the fourth seed out of the division. The loser would then play Kentridge with the winner earning the fifth and final spot with the loser out.
On the girls side, thanks to Kentwood’s 46-44 victory Monday night over Riverside, the Conquerors played in a second place tiebreaker on Wednesday night at Auburn High.
The Tahoma girls found themselves in a situation nearly identical to the boys in a three-way tie for fourth and fifth places.
Auburn played Thomas Jefferson in a mini-game at Auburn Riverside on Wednesday night with the winner earning fourth place and the loser playing Tahoma for the North No. 5 seed.
Photos courtesy James Keilland from Photo Survey.
Contact Covington Reporter Assisitant Editor Kris Hill at email@example.com or (425) 432-1209, ext. 5054.