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

Around the Sound Sports podcast is hosted by Ben Ray. Email
Volleyball, soccer, tennis, football and more prep sports action | Around the Sound Sports

Sports reporter Ben Ray chats with coaches and players on recent high school matchups in South King County.

Renton head coach wins Coach of the Week from Seahawks

Cross has gotten Renton to a 3-1 record and second in KingCo 2A.

Davontae Redding and Kyle Brown celebrate a touchdown in the second half. Ben Ray / The Reporter
Do not scratch your eyes: Kent-Meridian football wins by 38

For the first time in over eight years, KM scores over 60 points in a game.

Senior Ella Schug with the ball at her feet. Ben Ray / The Reporter
Kentridge comes through with a late goal to draw 1-1 against Mount Si

Girls soccer team off to its best start since 2019

Seattle’s Sam Popowich, in preseason action against Everett, scored the winning goal in the Thunderbirds’ WHL season-opening 3-2 win Saturday, Sept. 23 at the Wenatchee Wild. COURTESY FILE PHOTO, Brian Liesse, Seattle Thunderbirds
Kent-based Thunderbirds edge Wenatchee Wild in season opener

Sam Popowich scores winning goal with 33 seconds left in 3-2 victory

Season preview: Kent-based T-Birds seek to defend Western Hockey League title

Many top players are gone but others ready to step up; 7 players taken in NHL Draft

Emerald Downs attendance up 16% in 2023; handle down 10.6%

Auburn track concluded 52-day, live-racing schedule on Sept. 17

Kent-based Thunderbirds open WHL season on the road at Wenatchee Wild

Opener Sept. 23 followed by home debut Sept. 30 against Portland at ShoWare Center

Around the Sound Sports podcast is hosted by Ben Ray. Email
Fall sports preview in South King County | Around the Sound Sports

Welcome back to the Around the Sound Sports podcast! This episode takes a closer look at opening day matchups for high school athletes in South King County.

Kentlake cheer team. Photo courtesy of Allison Humphreys
Athletes of the Week: Kent’s high school cheer teams

To kick off the 2023 school year, the Kent Reporter is showcasing each school’s cheer team.

Seahawks QB Geno Smith keeps his eyes down field. (Maria Dorsten Photography)
Seahawks fans come out in droves for Kids Day

Hawks close out public practices and will face the Dallas Cowboys on Aug. 19 for their final preseason home contest.

Arpit Bhagat up to bat for Mavericks at the Kent Cricket Ground. (Ben Ray/Sound Publishing)
Kent Cricket Ground plays host to Northwest Cricket League

A sport growing in popularity in the states has the chance to get even bigger.