The Kentridge girls basketball team spoiled the senior night at Decatur High School with a huge win over the Gators 59-48 on Jan. 22.
Kentridge High School has now won three games in a row and sit in second place behind Tahoma in the standings. Decatur had the chance to tighten the race down the stretch, but Kentridge brushed off the Gators in a big way.
“My group is working hard to kind of figure out what works best. We had some big performances tonight from some of our post players who did really well,” Head Coach Brad McDowell said.
Last season, the Gators ended the Chargers’ season in a winner-to-state game at Decatur, 48-41. This season has a lot of new faces on both sides, but that sentiment was still there for McDowell’s side. Revenge might not be the right word, but the Chargers got the bad taste out of their mouth in the win.
“Every team is a little bit different, but I know I always think of the past and what happened last year… We’re two competitive teams that have the same kind of mindset… It was close coming down to the wire, and we just had some good performances at the end,” McDowell said.
Kentridge coming into the Decatur game was on a two-game winning streak, but that stopped a tough stretch of games where the Chargers went 2-5 before the streak. The win against Decatur showed what the Chargers were capable of.
“At the end of the final stretch of our season, we wanted to finish strong and get some good wins,” said senior Sophie Solomon.
There is something to be said about spoiling a team’s senior night — waiting that extra 10 or so minutes while the other team gets recognized for their four years of dedication to a program.
“You want to upset a team on their senior night. Also, Decatur is a good team, so we had to play up. Our coach said we are in a hostile environment, so we need to come together as a team,” Solomon said.
Some teams have a hard time staying focused, but Kentridge was ready to go from the tip.
“We knew it was senior night for Decatur, which is an emotional night for any team. So we talked at the beginning of the game of handling our emotions, but also handle the emotions of the game itself,” McDowell said.
In the first quarter, it was a physical battle. Over the first five minutes, there were 11 points scored, and at the final buzzer there were 11 fouls in the first quarter. But Kentridge led 16-7 when all was said and done.
“When it is a physical game back and forth, it is one of those things where you have to stay calm and collected. These girls stepped up and did a great job tonight,” said McDowell.
The second quarter challenged the Chargers more than any other time in the game. Decatur came out scorching with a trio of three-pointers and ended up slashing the Kentridge lead to just a single possession 18-20. The Chargers responded with a 7-0 run of their own to regain control of the game.
Freshman Kalia Washington finished with 11 points, but her defense is what stood out for McDowell.
“She played some big minutes; her defense was the key that gave her that chance on the offensive end… She made some big shots. They didn’t look rushed, and that was good,” he said.
Solomon played a big part in the Kentridge offense and defense throughout the entire game. One of two seniors on the roster, Solomon has the ability to keep the team grounded.
“When she is taking her time, taking a good shot and looking for her teammates, she does a really good job. So as long as she slows it down in her mind, good things happen for us,” said McDowell.
In the second half, Decatur came out one fire again, cutting the lead to single digits. In the third quarter, sophomore Andrea Pop and Solomon combined for 12 points to separate the Chargers going into the final quarter. Ball movement played a big role in the Charger offense, with players like Sydney Esperanza and freshman Raelyn Ofrancia finding the open teammate for an easy basket.
“We know coming in that Decatur plays their defense high up. So knowing that we had to get the ball inside and in the middle, I think we executed that well throughout the game,” Esperanza said.
The fourth quarter was similar to the first — physical and low scoring. Neither side scored double figures in the fourth, but the Chargers were able to hold on, limiting Decatur to just eight fourth quarter points.
Kentridge has Kennedy, Tahoma and Kentwood remaining on its schedule. All three of those games will be tests for the postseason. The focus for the Chargers should be on what Kentridge does well, according to Esperanza.
“I think we need to do what is working. (We) don’t need to stress on what’s not working. Today Sophie was out on the mid-block and hitting those shots, so we kept giving it to her,” Esperanza said.
Kentridge travels to Kennedy Catholic Jan. 27 with a 12:30 p.m. tip-off.