Jayla Koewla runs back down the court after a made basket in the fist quarter. Ben Ray / The Reporter

Jayla Koewla runs back down the court after a made basket in the fist quarter. Ben Ray / The Reporter

Kentridge girls hoops surges past Kentlake

Ten different players recorded points for the Chargers in the 55-point win.

Kentridge was firing on all cylinders Dec. 5 in a home game blowout against cross-town rival Kentlake.

“When they come out, they don’t necessarily have to put on a show, but they have to come out with intensity and energy to pick up their teammates and get everybody flowing in the right direction,” Head Coach Brad McDowell said.

The Chargers dismantled the Falcons, 71-16, for their third straight win of the 2023 season. It’s the second year in a row the Chargers have won their first three, but to win by 55 points is quite a feat.

“It has to do with chemistry. In the beginning we were a little shaky because we had newcomers, but I think we did a good job bonding and putting chemistry first,” said Jayla Keowla

The last time Charger girls scored 70 points or more was in the 2019-2020 season. In that season, they actually scored 70 or more three straight games from Jan. 8 to Jan. 15. There are a lot of stark differences between those two sides, and it’s still early, but the similarities are starting to develop.

Sophie Solomon takes on a Kentlake defender. Ben Ray / The Reporter

Sophie Solomon takes on a Kentlake defender. Ben Ray / The Reporter

“Major similarities are they want to compete. They don’t bicker at each other, but they go at each other … Maybe the talent is different from 2019 because of height and some of those things, but the competitive drive is very similar,” McDowell said.

In the game against Kentlake, the Chargers got rolling right away. Charger Junior Keowla was the leading scorer with 10 points in the first quarter on five shots from the floor.

“The momentum of the whole team (got us going). We were moving without the ball and not always looking just for our shot. I think we all did a good job playing with each other and finding each other,” Keowla said.

The offense was just flowing, and the Chargers were passing up good shots for great ones.

“That’s something we’re working on in practice every day. Finishing that next best shot … We’re a team that’s still trying to figure each other out … It’s still a work in progress, which is exciting,” McDowell said.

Sydney Esperanza (White) and Natalie Brown (Black) battle in the lane. Ben Ray / The Reporter

Sydney Esperanza (White) and Natalie Brown (Black) battle in the lane. Ben Ray / The Reporter

By the end of the first quarter, it was clear that the Chargers were going to walk away with a win, leading 25-4. Anytime you have that large of a lead on that few made shots, most coaches understand how the contest is going to go. To Coach McDowell’s credit, he understood, and ran almost like a hockey-style substitution where all of his bench players went into the game in the second quarter.

Execution from those bench players trickles down from upperclassman leadership and example setting.

“Effort is a big part of that. Our seniors are a big part of that. Sydney does a great job of bring that energy. She’s not mean, but authoritative like ‘Let’s do this the right way and get better,’” McDowell said.

By halftime, the Chargers had 10 of 12 players on the roster who made a basket. For a team that suffered from lack of depth a season ago in the playoffs, getting players substantial minutes who might not get many down the road is a huge benefit to Kentridge.

“That is definitely one of our strengths this year. If one of our starters is out, that doesn’t matter because our bench is strong. We know that each one of us can perform out here,” senior Sydney Esperanza said.

Another interesting aspect of this Charger side is the youth. Sophie Solomon and Esperanza are the lone seniors. They partner with two juniors, four sophomores and four freshmen. Youth is on the Chargers’ side.

Hailey Anderson (Black) and Tia Schanbeck (White) try and snag a rebound. Ben Ray / The Reporter

Hailey Anderson (Black) and Tia Schanbeck (White) try and snag a rebound. Ben Ray / The Reporter

The seniors are tasked with helping eight underclassmen, and in the eyes of many players, they are excelling at that job.

“They do a good job at being positive because coming in as a freshman and playing varsity basketball is a scary thing, not everybody can do it… They do a good job being very positive and motivating us to do better every day,” Keowla said.

Kentridge has yet to face a state caliber challenge this season. But following Mount Rainier, the Chargers have a date with Olympia — the team that dashed their state tournament hopes before falling to Decatur in the final game of the district tournament.

“We’re very excited for this year. Especially with these two games coming up. We just have to focus on practicing hard each and every day. That’s what is going to help us in the game. That’s what we’re going to continue to do throughout the whole season,” Esperanza said.

That rematch is something these players are looking forward to and maybe even more so, McDowell said: “Mount Rainier is going to be a solid team in our league. But with Olympia, I am one of those coaches that likes revenge a little bit. … I kind of want to take it to Olympia a little bit. They’re going to execute and be fundamentally sound, just like Olympia normally is, and so our kids have to take that next level.”

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