The Kentwood Conquerors boys basketball team took down Graham-Kapowsin on Feb. 11 with a convincing 65-49 win.
“They don’t seem to be fazed by anything… Nothing really bothers them, which is good. No stage is too big for these guys,” Kentwood Coach Blake Solomon said after the win.
Kentwood advances to the next round, but the threat of a loser-out game still remains. For this Conks team, they aren’t planning on going home.
Against Graham-Kapowsin, Kentwood struggled to get going. The Eagles got out to an early seven-point lead, but once Kentwood settled in, the Conks started cooking. By the end of the first quarter, Kentwood led 20-18.
The following quarter, Kentwood continued to play very well, taking a 33-28 point lead into halftime. The Eagles played physical defense, which gave the Conquerors some trouble throughout some stages of the game.
“We had some turnovers, but none that really broke our back. We did a good job of just handling it and settling in. You can watch it on film, until they actually feel them it’s a little different,” Solomon said.
But again, at the start of the second half, Graham-Kapowsin made a run to tie the game and put pressure on the Conks. But again, the Conks dominated the middle and end of the third to lead 52-44.
“Brandon [Tagle] went on a little run just by himself in the third. But that’s what has to happen in the playoffs. You got to be able to execute game plans, you have to have guys make shots, and Brandon did a great job of that,” Solomon said.
A small play in the grand scheme of the game, but a huge personal play, took place in that second half. Sophomore Corey Tita turned the ball over, and then took a charge immediately after granting the Conks the ball back.
This was something that stuck out to Solomon.
“I was really impressed with that play,” he said. “I don’t know if he makes that play last year. He’s gotten so much better everywhere as a basketball player… He puts his teammates first in that regard instead of himself, which is what we talk about all the time.”
In the fourth quarter, Kentwood allowed just five points — one of its best defensive showcases all season.
“We run off of energy.. Seeing how good we played and that energy helps build us up,” said Brandon Tagle.
It was a win Kentwood needed. The Conquerors had not beaten a team with a record over .500 since they took down Skyview on Jan. 14.
Throughout the game, Blake Stempniak defended the tallest player on the floor, and he learned how to take up that role from his coaches.
Kentwood plays Tahoma on the road Feb. 15, and for the Conks, they know it’s going to be a battle: “We have to go fight and see what happens,” Solomon said.
“We’re dangerous. If we get hot, they know they can’t stop us,” Stempniak said.
His teammate echoed the same thing.
“We just gotta keep fighting all the way through,” Tagle said.