Kentwood high advances to state tournament | Boys and girls basketball

Going to the state basketball tournament is a tradition for both the boys and girls teams at Kentwood High.

The boys have made seven appearances in the tournament since 2003 while the girls have made six straight trips.

In 2009, the girls won a championship, a year later the boys won their second in school history.

Last week both teams punched their tickets to state again as both went 3-1 in the West Central Southwest Bi-District tournament.

Kentwood's girls basketball team has lost just one game in the month of February and that was in the district semi-final game on Feb. 18.

That one loss was to Federal Way but the team learned from it, explained senior guard Maddison Rankin.

"We just got off to a rough start (against Federal Way)," Rankin said. "That set the mood for the entire game."

The Conquerors put an exclamation point on the playoff season so far with a 58-50 win over Rogers, garnering the third seed out of the district tournament.

Kentwood, however, got off to a rough start against Rogers on Monday as the Rams took a 20-14 into the start of the second quarter.

Rankin, for example, missed her first shot early in the game and the Rogers fans attempted to hound her throughout the contest. It didn't seem to phase her, though, as she racked up 10 points and didn't miss a shot down the stretch.

"We've been working on team ball," Rankin said. "We're not having one person scoring every game. We came back strong from that game (against Federal Way). We learned from our mistakes."

In the second quarter against Rogers, Kentwood went on a 7-0 run in the first four minutes, 11 seconds, then went into the locker room at halftime with a 33-24 lead.

"We set goals for every quarter," Rankin said. "We need to reflect on what we did wrong then we fix it. Once we start moving the ball, we start clicking."

In the third quarter the Conks were definitely clicking as they built a 47-34 lead during the period thanks to balanced offense and aggressive defensive. During the third period Rankin, Alycea DeLong, Sarah Toeaina, Kate Kramer, Kylee Ashley and Alexis Berrysmith all chipped in points.

Toeaina and DeLong, two of the team's seven sophomores, led the Conks in scoring with 12 and 13 points respectively.

Despite the team's youth, DeLong said, there is a strong chemistry among the players because many of the sophomores have played together for years.

"Yes, we've had a few off games," DeLong said. "But, driving and getting good shots and finding our spotted shooters (have been key). We're not a selfish team. It fluctuates who our high scorer is from game to game. If someone is hot, we get them the ball."

DeLong said coming to the gym ready, whether for practice or a game, and being focused.

Rankin and DeLong both said playing tough on the defensive side of the ball is crucial.

DeLong was somewhat frustrated that Jordan Asher from Rogers scored 19 points, with six of those coming in the final minutes of the game, because for "one person to have a lot of points one game (against them) is not good."

"We need to make sure one person doesn't have that kind of influence," DeLong said. "We need to come out harder and stronger."

After playing three games in four days, Rankin said, the team will be glad to have five days off to prepare for state and focus on some key things.

"Defense sets the mood for the entire game," Rankin said. "We just go for the basics. At practice we work on ball movement a lot. We don't worry so much about who we're going to play. We focus on what we do as a team."

If they do all the little things right, Rankin said, it doesn't matter who they play because it should work against any opponent. From there, winning practically takes care of itself.

Kentwood takes on Jackson at 6 p.m. Saturday at Kent-Meridian High in the regional round of the state tournament. This is a single elimination round.

Winners from the regional sites will then go into a draw to determine first round match ups for the Hardwood Classic, the 4A state basketball tournament, March 1-3 at the Tacoma Dome. The Hardwood Classic is a double-elimination tournament.

DeLong is excited for the state tournament.

"I just want to get past the first round," she said. "I think we really have a strong chance. However far we get, I'm happy with that because we did it as a team."



On Feb. 17, Kent-Meridian eliminated Kentlake from the district tournament with a 62-51 victory at Auburn Mountainview, but Kent-Meridian came up short the next night against Federal Way losing 45-38.

Kentwood beat Evergreen of Vancouver, Wash., 71-48 on Monday and earned the right to play Garfield at 8 p.m. Friday at Juanita High School.

The Conks started the playoffs out well with a win over Battle Ground at home on Feb. 14 but struggled on Feb. 17 against Mount Rainier, losing by four at Auburn High, but bounced back the next day to punch their ticket to state with a 57-45 win over Rogers.

Brian Davis, Kentwood's head coach, wrote in an email interview Tuesday morning that the team learned some important lessons in the loss to Mount Rainier.

"Adjustments we made for Rogers were to come out faster with energy and urgency," Davis wrote. "Holding them to six points in first quarter was a great start. Offensively we tried to move the ball and look for each other and we did having four guys in double figures."

Davis described the victory over Evergreen on Monday as a complete game. He rotated 11 players into the game in the first half and all 12 had played by the third quarter. He stated the Conks came out focused with a goal to shut down Evergreen's Caleb Dressler, who is 6-foot-10 and will play at Hawaii next year, and held the big man to just a handful of points.

"Offensively we really went nuts shooting 65 percent in (the) first half and shooting 14-16 from line for the game," Davis wrote.

Kentwood takes a group of players who have been to the state title game, with six seniors who were 10th graders in 2010 when the Conks last won it all, and Davis explained his team is eager to make its own mark.

"To get back to state is a great accomplishment but they are hungry to get to the (Tacoma) Dome. It's going to be tough facing Garfield on Friday," Davis wrote. "It's do or die so we will need to be extremely determined and focused and ready to execute. If we are able to get by a very good Garfield team, we will have a ton of fun at the dome and hopefully make some great memories."








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