Kentwood High School’s boys basketball team took down Wenatchee High School 71-30 on Jan. 3. It was also the second time this season the Conquerors have held a team to 30 points or less.
This marked the end of a difficult nonleague stretch of the Kentwood season. Kentwood went on to defeat Thomas Jefferson High School 69-51 on Jan. 7 before taking on another surging Kent school, Kent-Meridian, on Jan. 10.
“We challenged ourselves in the nonleague portion of our schedule,” said coach Blake Solomon after the Wenatchee win.
Kentwood faced a former fourth in state-ranked Union High team, as well as Lincoln and Battle Ground, who are each 9-1 in their respective seasons. Kentwood was 5-4 at press time.
Kentwood also only has three seniors.
“As young as we are, we might not have wanted to play as tough of competition out of league,” Solomon said. “But it has made them better and grow up quicker.”
But for his players, they may have a different idea and mentality surrounding those types of games.
“We are a younger team,” said Kentwood sophomore Mason St. Louis. “When we play those better teams, we know what it is like to play against adversity and compete. And now we know what we gotta do.”
Wenatchee has been the only nonleague home game for Kentwood. That aspect of the Conquerors’ season is one of the bright spots of their year. So far they are undefeated when they play inside the Kentwood gymnasium.
“We have played well every game at home,” said Solomon.
And play well they did. Kentwood surged out to a 26-11 lead in the first quarter. Solomon noted it was the Conks’ ability to get stops helped them jump on the Panthers early.
“We play really unselfish,” Solomon said. “It’s easy when guys are looking for each other. It is contagious.”
In the second quarter, the defense continued to shine. The Panthers didn’t score a point until the 5:14 mark in the quarter on two free throws. Their first field goal came with 3:50 left in the half. The largest lead for Kentwood ended the third quarter, and the Conquerors were up by 45 entering the fourth with a 67-22 score.
Three of the top four scorers in the affair with Wenatchee were all underclassmen for Kentwood. Sophomores Corey Tita (20) and St. Louis (13) led the scoring. Junior Blake Stempniak had 11 points.
“We are really excited about our young guys and our future,” Solomon said.
The chemistry of the young squad can be seen on the court with their play. The Conqs totalled 17 assists against the Panthers.
“We bond really well together. It plays a really big part in our game,” said freshman Brandon Tagle.
Tagle finished with 10 points and five assists. All four of the players who led Kentwood in scoring didn’t touch the floor in the fourth quarter, which allowed players who might not get many minutes a great opportunity.
“It’s good to see those guys rewarded … We are cheering for their success and want everyone to feel important with our success,” Solomon said.