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Boys state basketball: Kentwood stops Wilson, state championship next
With a television camera and multiple microphones in his face late Friday night, Kentwood High star Josh Smith was succinct.
“We’re not satisfied,” Smith said.
Smith’s performance Friday night, however, was plenty satisfying to Conk Nation. Kentwood’s 6-foot-9 UCLA-bound star scored a team-high 21 points, grabbed 11 rebounds, dished out four assists and blocked three shots, lifting the Conquerors past Wilson of Tacoma 57-44 in a Class 4A state boys basketball semifinal game.
Kentwood (20-10) will play Jackson of Mill Creek (23-4) at 7 p.m. on Saturday for the state championship. Jackson stunned top-ranked Federal Way 53-45 in the tournament’s other semifinal matchup.
“This feels great, but like I said, we still have 32 more minutes of basketball to play,” Smith said as his teammates ran into the locker room celebrating. “We’re not satisfied with just getting (to the championship game), we want first.”
Wilson proved a threat to the Conquerors early on, taking a 10-9 lead after the first quarter of play. Tied 14-14, Kentwood ended the second quarter on a 12-3 run to take a 26-17 halftime lead. Smith and Tre Tyler, Kentwood’s top two scorers, spent much of the run on the bench in foul trouble. The key to the spurt came from back-to-back 3-pointers from Alec Wilson and Mikell Everette, two shots that created big sparks and gave Kentwood momentum while its two top players were on the bench.
Smith took over in the third quarter against Wilson’s man-to-man defense, scoring 11 of his 20 points, pushing the Conquerors lead to 47-29 with one quarter to go. In addition to the 20 points, Smith, who has struggled in the past from the line, converted 6 of 6 in the game at the charity stripe.
It was Kentwood’s 13th win in its past 15 games. Much of that string, however, has come due to the Conquerors’ unselfish play. In a win over Eastlake on Thursday, every Conqueror on the roster scored at least once. On Friday night, nine different Conquerors scored and they finished with 15 assists.
What will Kentwood see Saturday night?
Jackson, a team that relies on its guard play, enters the night on a six-game winning streak. The Timberwolves are fast, but stayed mostly on the perimeter in their semifinal win over the Eagles. Brett Kingma, a sharpshooting guard, led the way for Jackson, scoring 25 points. Kingma, who averages 24 points per game this season, connected on four 3-pointers in the win. Physically, Jackson doesn’t have anybody above 6-5, thus matching up with Smith will be a problem.