GIRLS BASKETBALL: KW knocks off G-K, claims fourth straight SPSL crown

  • BY Wire Service
  • Sunday, February 15, 2009 1:26am
  • Sports

Needing a spark, the Kentwood High girls basketball team got the biggest one imaginable on Saturday night from the smallest player on the court.

Kylie Huerta, Kentwood’s lightning-quick 5-foot-guard, keyed a late second-quarter rally, lifting the Conquerors past Graham-Kapowsin 68-50 for the South Puget Sound League title.

In a game that second-ranked Kentwood started slow, Huerta’s motor was running at full tilt the entire 32 minutes. Trailing 21-18 with four minutes remaining in the first half, Huerta came away with consecutive steals in the span of 17 seconds, both of which turned into easy Kentwood buckets, giving the Conquerors an instant 22-21 lead and much-needed momentum.

Huerta’s two big second-quarter plays lit the fuse for the Conquerors, who proceeded to turn up the defensive pressure and, in the process, transform a tight game into another blowout.

“I think a lot of teams look at trying to stop Lindsey (Moore), trying to stop Jessie (Genger) and Kylie is just one of those girls, you got to try and stop her, too,” said Kentwood coach Keith Hennig. “If you leave her open, give her a lane to the hoop, she’s going to take advantage of that. She’s only 5-feet tall with her shoes on, but she plays like she’s 6-feet.”

And Huerta played like it on Saturday, scoring 13 points and coming away with a game-high nine steals. It couldn’t have come at a better time for the second-ranked Conquerors as Moore, sporting a black right eye from an accident at practice on Tuesday, got off to a slow start and didn’t convert her first bucket until 3:56 remained in the second quarter.

“(Kylie) was the spark plug for us, she got us going,” said Moore, who still finished with a team-high 15 points. “We really needed that.”

With the win, Kentwood (21-0) will take the SPSL’s top seed to the West Central District III tournament. The Conquerors will play host to Bethel (8-13) at 7 p.m. Wednesday in the opening round of the tournament.

The win over Graham-Kapowsin helped the Conquerors seal their fourth straight SPSL title. And much of the fourth title can be credited to Kentwood’s relentless defense, which was led by the diminutive Huerta.

“That’s just what we do,” said Huerta. “That’s where we get our energy. I was just in the right position to get most of those steals.”

Despite a sluggish first half, the Conquerors were firing from all cylinders during a frantic final 16 minutes. Kentwood clung to that five-point lead until midway though the third quarter, then finished the frame on a 10-0 to take a commanding 51-36 advantage heading into the fourth.

“We wanted to pick up the pace a little bit,” Hennig said. “I thought the pace was a little slower than what we would have liked. So we went with a little full-court, half-court pressure and that seemed to kind of get the blood flowing a little bit.”

The other part of Kentwood’s recipe for success was its usual unselfishness. Four different Conquerors registered double-figures scoring: Moore, Huerta, Genger (14) and Liz Mills (14).

Kentwood 68, Graham-Kapowsin 50

G-K 12 12 12 14 50

Kentwood 15 14 22 17 68

Graham-Kapowsin: Parker 16, A. Campbell 17, Menafee 8, Mock 4, Olson 3, Zemenak 2.

Kentwood: Moore 15, Genger 14, Huerta 13, Milovic 5, Johnson 5, Mills 14, Wahlberg 2, Rider 0, Rankin 0.

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