Searching for gold, the Kentridge girls basketball team settled for bronze Saturday.
Such a consolation prize may be less than satisfying, but for one of the 4A state tournament favorites, it’s better than coming away with nothing at all.
JaQuaya Miller knows as much.
“It’s not the outcome we wanted, but it is what it is,” said the Chargers’ 6-foot-4 senior force, following her team’s 70-60 victory over Bellarmine Prep for third place at the Hardwood Classic in the Tacoma Dome.
Tightly guarded and elbowed inside, the University of Washington-bound Miller finished her final high school game in frustration and foul trouble, limited to six points and five rebounds in only 10 minutes of action.
Knocked hard to the floor early in the third quarter, an angry Miller had something to say about it and was hit with a technical foul. She later fouled out on a charge to the rim along the baseline with 19 seconds left in the period.
But all that didn’t matter afterward. Miller was content. Her teammates stepped it up when she had to sit down.
As she has done all season, Miller’s reliable sidekick, 6-foot-1 junior Jordyn Jenkins, rose to the occasion, scoring 18 of her game-high 32 points in the second half to help the No. 2 Chargers (26-3) pull away and beat the No. 6 Lions (22-7) for the third time this season.
Callie Stevens paced Bellarmine Prep with 19 points.
Like Miller, Jenkins was issued a technical foul, her’s coming midway in the second quarter, while the Chargers had a 10-point lead.
“It’s tough to keep your composure,” Jenkins said of the chippy play against the Lions. “I own up to it. I didn’t do very good with my attitude.”
But Jenkins settled into the game and proved overpowering on both ends of the floor, grabbing 13 rebounds and blocking three shots. She sank 11 of her 15 shots from the field.
Kiernen Denckla, a junior swing player, came off the bench to score eight of her 10 points in the fourth quarter after the Lions had closed to within 43-40 after three periods of play. Denckla jarred the ball loose for a key steal and layup and later fed Jenkins for an easy low-block basket during a decisive 19-7 run in the fourth quarter.
“It feels amazing, honestly,” Denckla said of her opportunity to shine. “We stayed positive. We kept everybody up, and we came out and gave it our all.”
Without Miller, Kentridge called on its guards to open the floor and play small ball with an undersized foe. Contributions came from Daylani Ballena (11 points), Hana McVicker (six points) and Abby Hynek (five).
Kentridge’s bench outscored Bellarmine Prep’s reserves, 15-0.
“They worked together, and they kind of fight through those tough situations,” said Kentridge coach Brad McDowell. “You just have to keep playing and do the best you can.”
McDowell, in his first year at the helm after eight seasons as an assistant and junior varsity coach at Kentridge, was challenged with getting his team ready to play less than 15 hours after its 64-55 semifinal loss to Lewis and Clark of Spokane.
“It’s just making sure they stay focused on the one task at hand,” McDowell said. “They wanted a trophy. OK, we got that. They wanted to play on Saturday. Yes, we got that. Maybe it’s not first or second but we got a trophy. We met the goals that we had. Obviously, we would have loved to play later on tonight, but they did a great job.
“It was tough trying to get them on the bus today and getting them going,” McDowell added. “Once we got down here, I (reminded) them that it was attitude, it was the mood that we play with, it was the energy that we play with (that was important). I felt Bellarmine Prep had nothing to lose, so you have to match that intensity and beat it. That’s the challenge of any game.”
For McDowell, the future is bright. Despite losing three starters – Miller, McVicker and Tiffani Pham – to graduation, the Chargers have Jenkins, Ballena and Denckla back.
“I told the kids this before that we are deep. … So when this senior class graduates, we’re going to be missing a lot but we’re still going to have some pieces still in place,” he said. “My JV group did really well (this season). … We have a nice starting five coming back.”
Despite the loss, Miller leaves the program with a smile. Two years ago, she was a big part of a state championship. Last year, the Chargers finished fourth at state.
“I had a good run with my team. I had an amazing four years at Kentridge,” Miller said. “It was fun. The coaching staff was amazing. We had some ups and downs but we always fought through and came out where we wanted. It was a tough way to end my season, but I ended it with a good group of people.”
“It’s definitely going to be weird not having her on the court (next season). … The fourth quarter (on Saturday) was tough, but it is what’s going to happen next year. I’m going to have to step up to a whole other level.”