Kent-Meridian and Lindbergh high schools split the basketball varsity doubleheader on Dec. 16. The Kent-Meridian boys were victorious and the Lindbergh girls narrowly beat the winless Royals.
On the boys side, Kent-Meridian is 4-1 to start the season, with the only blemish being a loss to Federal Way.
“It’s a great start. We’ve got a lot of work to do. But I am proud of my guys,” said Royals Coach Marcus Graham.
Graham’s team is off to its best start since 2019-20, the year cut short due to COVID hampering the playoffs. But this season the Royals are on track and having a lot of success. Their biggest test so far was against Federal Way earlier in December.
“They were a little antsy coming off of that loss. It was a test for us to see where we really were,” said Graham.
Royal senior Tariq Hill doesn’t think that game should define his team. Before that loss, the team was undefeated. The Royals sit tied for third in the NPSL with five other teams (as of press time).
“Our goal is state. I have a lot of confidence in us,” Hill said.
The game itself was very competitive. Both teams played very aggressive defense and played with a lot of passion. Kent-Meridian applied a full-court press from the first possession in the half.
This led to Royal guard Jordan Bailey getting into foul trouble. When facing adversity, Hill thinks of their team’s motto.
“If someone goes down, next guy up. It hurt that JB had to come out, but I knew someone would come in and pick him up,” Hill said.
Hill has been a vocal leader this year.
“He’s our engine,” Graham said. “He’s a four-year varsity player. He’s come a long way.”
That leadership showed. In the third quarter, the Royals defense only allowed three Lindbergh points — nine less points than they scored in the second quarter.
“I got on them at halftime, and I liked how they responded,” said Graham.
Bailey and Hill combined for 43% of the Royals points. Bailey led the team with 15 and Hill had 14.
“We are a great backcourt together,” Hill said.
The duo also combined for seven assists and eight rebounds. Kent-Meridian at one point in the third quarter led by as much as 22.
The girls game was the nightcap contest on Dec. 16. For the winless Royals, the Eagles were a formidable opponent.
It was the closest Kent-Meridian has come to victory all season, and its slimmest loss since January 2020. The Eagles took a four-point lead at the end of the first quarter, 12-8.
By the end of the half, both teams combined for 22 fouls, as there was definitely an aggressive edge to this game.
The Eagles emerged with a two-point victory, improving their record to 3-3.
The Kent-Meridian boys took down Liberty 68-58 on Dec. 19, bringing their record to 5-1. The girls continue their quest for their first win of the season on Jan. 3 when they take on Highline.