Kentridge leader Sydney Esperanza is focused on a free throw to close out the game. Ben Ray / The Reporter

Kentridge leader Sydney Esperanza is focused on a free throw to close out the game. Ben Ray / The Reporter

Kentridge girls take out Kentwood on the road

The Charger girls need one win to secure a spot in the state tournament

It all came down to a rivalry game on Valentine’s Day between Kentridge and Kentwood high school girls basketball teams in the second round of the West Central District playoffs.

“With it being an in-city rivalry it’s already going to be competitive,” said Kentridge Coach Brad McDowell.

Kentridge traveled to Kentwood and came out with the win 54-49 over the Conquerors on Feb. 14.

“It’s big because it shows the improvements we have made. We had some losses early in the season but picked it up and I think it shows,” said junior Sydney Esperanza.

Coming into the contest, the two teams had only played each other once this season; Kentwood won won earlier this month by four points.

“Kentwood is a team that has given us match-up problems before. We did everything we possibly could to win that game. And the kids did great,” said McDowell.

This match-up had a little bit more on the line than bragging rights — the loser’s season would come to a close and the winner would earn two chances to reach the state tournament.

Kentridge came into the game off of a two-point win against Puyallup but hadn’t necessarily played well, only winning two of their last four games. Kentwood on the other hand lost their opening-round game against Emerald Ridge. But up until that loss, the team had won four games in a row.

The game started out all Kentwood as they jumped out to a quick 10-point lead, seemingly right when the game started Kentridge was already down double figures. The Chargers didn’t blink and the comeback was made easier by the closeness of the Chargers.

“It wasn’t as difficult as you think because all my teammates are super supportive … So we really just one person needed to make a bucket then after that it was smooth sailing,” Esperanza said.

The Chargers battled, and by the end of the first quarter they had gotten the game to within two only trailing 14-12.

The second quarter set the tone for the rest of the game, it was an extremely physical and emotional game on both sides. Kentwood, the more veteran team, showed its experience and wasn’t allowing Esperanza any breathing room holding her to just eight points in the first half.

Esperanza finished with 17 points and a handful of rebounds, her effort should be seen as how every player should play the game.

“I feel like my effort helps lead the team because once one person starts hustling everyone follows. So not only does it motivate myself but my teammates as well,” she said.

At halftime, the game was tied 25-25. The Conquerors struggled to score in that second quarter totaling nine points.

Throughout the third quarter, it seemed Kentwood found its groove. Their star player sophomore Jessica Ajayi started to take over scoring the most points of any player on the floor in the third.

“I have to think about how to coach against her … Jessica is so talented, she’s a sophomore that could lead the league in many categories,” McDowell said.

Kentwood entered the final period up 37-35, personal fouls had been a pattern all night for both teams. In the first half, there were 17 combined fouls and in the fourth, both teams were in the double bonus.

Kentridge shot free throws at an 80% clip in the fourth quarter alone (12 of 15) Esperanza went six of seven and Trinity Schanbeck went four for four. Kentwood also shot the ball well from the stripe in the fourth going 10 out of 13 (77%).

Kentridge was able to ice the game away with free throws. With 10 seconds left, and down four, the Conquerors needed a three and couldn’t make one.

“When we go on the road it’s just an attack mentality that our kids have. When they have that mentality we have a chance, it doesn’t mean we’ll always win but we have a chance,” McDowell said.

And on the road they will go once again, this time they’ll take the 50-minute drive to the state capitol to face the Olympia Bears with a state berth on the line.

Kentridge (16-6) plays Olympia (12-11) at 7 p.m. Friday, Feb. 17.

McDowell had this to say about his next opponent.

“They’re a team that’s very methodical,” McDowell said. “It’s going to be a tough match-up, but once we get on the floor, it’s going to be a battle.”

Talk to us

Please share your story tips by emailing

To share your opinion for publication, submit a letter through our website Include your name, address and daytime phone number. (We’ll only publish your name and hometown.) Please keep letters to 300 words or less.

More in Sports

Photos by Ben Ray / The Reporter
Jaylen Petty drives against Lincoln inside the Tacoma Dome.
Two-time NPSL MVP to leave Auburn High School for Rainier Beach

Jaylen Petty will play his last high school season as a Viking in Seattle.

Skylar Diggins-Smith conducts the offense against the Sparks. Ben Ray / The Reporter
Storm pour it on in the fourth, wash out Sparks

Seattle used a huge 10-0 run late in the fourth to take control over Los Angeles.

Federal Way Memorial Field. Photo provided by Bruce Honda
Federal Way Memorial Field to host high school boys soccer tournaments

Class 2A, 1A competitions to move to Federal Way from Renton for 2025 to 2028

Kentwood and Kentridge players go at it for possession. Ben Ray / The Reporter
NPSL All-League Soccer Teams: Kentwood’s Logan Hasting is POTY

Other Kent School District athletes make the list.

Photo provided by Rodney McCurry.
Seattle Majestics play in postseason

Seattles women’s tackle football team goes to Las Vegas to open up the playoffs.

2024 Kent Reporter Athletes of the Year are Ella Wick and Ethan Loghry. Pictured left to right: Kent Reporter sports writer Ben Ray, Ella Wick, Ethan Loghry, and Brian Smith, Kent School District Director of Athletics and Activities. Photo provided by ROBBY MULLIKIN
Kent School District and Kent Reporter’s 2024 Athletes of the Year

Kentlake’s Ethan Loghry and Ella Wick take home top awards.

Hazen’s Illia Biezak leaps over the bar. Ben Ray / The Reporter
State track and field: Liberty boys, Kent-Meridian girls place inside top four in 3A

Cassie Atkins (FW) continued to dominate, has now won five titles in three years.

Brock England. COURTESY PHOTO, Canadian Sport School Hockey League
Kent-based Thunderbirds load up on Western Hockey League draft picks

Eleven players taken in Prospects Draft; two in U.S. Priority Draft, both from Dallas team

T20 World Cup trophy waits for fans to take photos. Ben Ray / The Reporter
Seattle Orcas, ‘America’s Favorite Cricket Team,’ builds local support

Event held at Bellevue Downtown Park can be catalyst for the world’s second most popular sport.

Ethan Loghry on the bump pitched a gem for the Falcons. Ben Ray / The Reporter
Kentlake baseball stays alive with a walk-off win

Falcons move on to winner-to-state game.

Keilor Cacho Garcia takes on a Stadium defender. Ben Ray / The Reporter
Royals soccer sent home in whirlwind of a second half

Kent-Meridian loses to Stadium 3-1, allowed three goals in six minutes in second half.

Quay Miller taking a shot during warmups in Canada. Photo provided by Seattle Storm.
Kentridge’s Quay Miller fights for spot with Storm

Miller wrapped up her college career in March and now sets her sights on the professional level.