Kentwood boys and girls hold off Battle Ground | Basketball Playoffs

Kentwood’s Maddison Rankin, center, keeps an eye on the ball while she works to box out several Emerald Ridge defenders in a league playoff game Feb. 10.  - Dennis Box, The Reporter
Kentwood’s Maddison Rankin, center, keeps an eye on the ball while she works to box out several Emerald Ridge defenders in a league playoff game Feb. 10.
— image credit: Dennis Box, The Reporter

The post-season started off well for all of the Kent schools basketball teams but only the Kentwood boys and girls came out of the first round of the West Central District tournament on Tuesday with wins.

Kentwood hosted both the girls and boys teams from Battle Ground, which is located near Vancouver, on Tuesday night.

The Conqueror girls won the right to host after blowing out Emerald Ridge on Feb. 10, winning 57-44 at ShoWare Center, while the boys earned the top seed out of the South Puget Sound League with a 49-41 victory that same night against Curtis.

Tuesday’s back-to-back contests started with the Kentwood girls who went into the halftime locker room with a 14 point lead only to see Battle Ground hold them to six points in the third quarter.

Heading into the third period the Conks had a tenuous three-point lead, up 44-41, with the Tigers clawing their way back into the game.

That’s when sophomore Sarah Toeaina took over.

She started the fourth quarter with a jumper to make it 46-41 then 20 seconds of game clock later added two more points with a putback to extend Kentwood’s lead to 48-41.

Battle Ground scored on back to back possessions to cut the Kentwood lead to one after Hayley Grossman got a bucket followed by Nikki Bond’s layin after she scooped up a loose ball underneath the Tigers’ hoop.

With about five minutes left in the game the Conks put on an aggressive full court press which slowed the Tigers down.

With 3 minutes, 51 seconds on the clock, Toeaina struck again, as she dribbled by a defender then made an open jump shot to make it 52-47 but Bond responded for Battle Ground with a three pointer on the next possession.

Kate Kramer drove the open lane with 2:40 left to make it a four point lead again at 54-50.

Toeaina went to the line with 1:35 on the clock, made the first and watched the second rattle in, extending the lead to 56-51. She hit four more from the free throw line down the stretch to help Kentwood to the 61-55 win setting the team up for a winner-to-state game on Friday against the winner of Wednesday night’s contest between Kentridge and South Kitsap. The results of that game were not available at press time.

Bond ended the game with 22 points for Battle Ground but Toeaina led all scorers with 23 while Jenny Johnson had 15, Alycea DeLong added 10 and Kate Kramer chipped in eight points for the Conks.

The Kentwood girls play at 6 p.m. Friday at Stadium High in Tacoma.

Meanwhile, the Conqueror boys put together 63-53 victory over the Tigers, but that was no easy feat, either.

Battle Ground raced out to a 10-4 lead early in the game and was up 19-13 at the end of the first quarter as Kentwood struggled to contain an effective inside-out game which started with big man Kaleb McGary, who stands 6-foot-9 and not surprisingly is also a lineman for the Tigers football squad, then finished with Serg Ovchinkov who nailed a trio of three pointers in the first quarter.

It was a much different story in the second quarter as the Conks found a groove offensively. It started with Jeremy Smith, who spun away from a defender, drove to the bucket and switched the ball midair before banking the ball in off the glass to cut the lead to 22-18. Benson later hit a three pointer from the wing to the cut the lead to 24-23 before another three point play put Kentwood ahead for the first time in the game when Jackson Huerta fed Taylor Jones the ball down in the post. Jones got the bucket and the foul, made the free throw, which gave the Conks the 26-25 lead.

At halftime, Kentwood was up 33-28, and in the third quarter the lead just widened. By the end of the third period the Conks had a 48-36 advantage as Ovchinkov struggled to score, getting just two points in the quarter.

The Conquerors again found balanced offense to be key. It was what helped Kentwood beat Curtis on Feb. 10 for the South Puget Sound League title at ShoWare and it kept Battle Ground from getting the win Tuesday night.

Joe Kramer, Huerta, Benson, Elliot Rowe, Terrence Grady and Benson all scored in the third quarter.

With 1:43 left on the clock, Smith put an exclamation point on the victory when he stole the ball at midcourt, then took it to the hoop and slammed it home to make it 60-48 Kentwood.

Ovchinkov finished with 27 points for Battle Ground while McGary had 14.

Smith and Benson had 14 points each, Jones chipped in 10, while Kendall White added nine followed by six apiece from Huerta and Kramer.

The Kentwood boys will play Mount Rainier at 8 p.m. Friday at Auburn High.

In other hoops action Tuesday night, Olympia beat Kentlake 69-66, while Bellarmine Prep beat Kentridge 45-43.

Kentlake plays Kent-Meridian, who lost to Evergreen Tuesday, at 6 p.m. Friday at Auburn Mountainview.

Kentridge’s boys squad will take on Beamer at 8 p.m. on Friday at Curtis High.


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