Niki Boris takes a three pointer at Issaquah High School in the regional playoff round. Ben Ray / The Reporter

Niki Boris takes a three pointer at Issaquah High School in the regional playoff round. Ben Ray / The Reporter

Kentwood hoops update: Girls fall, boys face Olympia in Tacoma Dome

Girls can’t overcome Eastlake, while boys run out of gas against Mount Si.

For the first time since 2020, the Kentwood Conqueror boys and girls basketball teams have made the regional round of the state tournament at the same time.

The two teams traveled up to Issaquah High School on Feb. 24. The girls had to win to stay alive, while the boys were looking to advance to the quarterfinals with a win.

Kentwood’s girls have been through the ringer this year with losses early in the season, battling through the back half of the district bracket to even get to the state tournament — losing to Skyview and then beating Union with their season on the line then getting named the 13th seed in the state tournament is a journey.

That journey to get back to the Tacoma Dome was cut short in a 55-36 loss to Eastlake in the regional round.

“It was a tough loss… Credit to Eastlake, they’re good. They hang their hat on defense,” Head Coach Jordan Nero said.

Kentwood got out to a quick 6-4 lead thanks to senior Niki Boris, who shined offensively for Kentwood the majority of the game.

“This was my favorite team to play on at Kentwood. I love the girls and am so proud of them,” Boris said postgame.

The Conk lead was quickly absorbed by Eastlake, and the Wolves kept pounding away at the Kentwood defense.

In the second quarter, Kentwood’s defense held strong, keeping Eastlake to just seven points in the period. Kentwood senior Isabella Cho has battled a shoulder injury for the majority of the season and even in the game against Eastlake. Her fight is second to none according to her coach: “When she was healthy, it really fueled us. In our biggest games, she set the tone with her energy. We’re going to miss that,” Nero said.

On the other side of the floor, Boris scored four points in the second quarter. Jessica Ajayi was the lone Conk to score along with her teammate.

By far the toughest period of play for Kentwood was the third quarter. Kentwood coming into the second half trailed 17-23 and managed to just score three points the entire third quarter. “We just had to stay together, we’re a family. Today was an important game so we had to get excited over the little things. That’s what brings us together,” Boris said.

Even though the game was well beyond reach, the Kentwood girls kept battling, scoring 16 points in the fourth quarter alone.

“We talked about finishing strong. Whether it is your last moments here in this uniform or last moments together with your teammates this year… It’s about sending things out on the right foot,” Nero said.

Boris finished her Kentwood career and the game with a team high 16 points, including two fourth quarter threes. But her value to the team is more than just scoring.

“She has seen a lot…Her senior year has been really awesome. Really consistent, got first team all-league. I am really proud of her, she’s such a fun kid to be around,“ Nero said. “That’s a kid I’m going to miss.”

Kentwood has a solid core returning next season with a lot of experience gained from this past season.

“It definitely helps having the MVP back. Having a freshman phenom (Tyanna Sims) who had a really good season. She was up and down but got consistent late. I think the world of her, she’s going to be great these next couple years,” Nero said.

Corey Tita looks for a teammate with a one-handed pass against Mount Si. Ben Ray / The Reporter

Corey Tita looks for a teammate with a one-handed pass against Mount Si. Ben Ray / The Reporter

Boys

Kentwood’s boys team was faced with a different type of challenge, one that they hadn’t faced this year.

Kentwood took on Mount Si, the number one seed, with a trip to the quarterfinals up for grabs. Coming in, Kentwood had fallen in the district tournament in ugly fashion to Tahoma a week prior. This performance was a move in the right direction, despite falling to Mount Si with the final score of 83-62.

“All week we talked about being physical and competing. I didn’t think we did that last week against Tahoma… This week our whole focus was on just competing and being physical and I thought we did a much better job,” said Head Coach Blake Solomon.

The Wildcats sprinted past the Conks in the second half en route to a 83-62 victory. Speed was a factor that Kentwood knew was going to be something they had to deal with.

Solomon’s squad was able to keep pace early on with the Wildcats due in part to their great three-point shooting. Corey Tita, Brandon Tagle and Blake Stempniak all made three point shots to stay with Mount Si. After the first quarter ended Kentwood trailed by two, 15-13.

Tita and Tagle combined for 10 second half points and were able to keep the game close. A big three from Yusof Edey off the bench gave Kentwood some life early in the quarter.

“He’s been playing well. He’s really found his niche and his role. He helps us defend and made a three tonight. He did some good things,” Solomon said.

Heading into the locker rooms at halftime, Kentwood was down 35-28, a position that they worked hard to be in.

“I don’t think the final score is necessarily reflective of how competitive the first 24 minutes were,” Solomon said.

A big part of Mount Si’s success against the Conks was the transition offense that Wildcats ran, essentially blowing right past Conk defenders.

“They used their speed in transition. That is mainly where they beat us, it’s mainly where we lost the game. They’re fast and we didn’t do a good enough job to get back on defense,” Tita said.

Coming out of the break, Kentwood cut the seven point lead to five. But Mount Si seemed to not miss a shot in the second half and crushed the Conks’ dreams of a comeback. Corey Tita finished with 20 points in the loss and had just eight second half points.

“We can play against anybody. We were the underdogs coming into this game today, but that doesn’t matter to anybody in that locker room. We just let it get away in the end,” Tita said.

Kentwood faces Olympia in the round of 12 on Feb. 28 inside the Tacoma Dome. It’s a team the Conks beat 51-42 on Feb. 15. The two sides may be familiar this year, with their second matchup against each other in a month. But the two sides have been paired up just six times in the past 14 years (4-2 KW). “Once again, we’re the underdogs. We are trying to come in and make some noise,” Tita said.


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Freshman Tyanna Sims takes a mid-range jump shot against Eastlake. Ben Ray / The Reporter

Freshman Tyanna Sims takes a mid-range jump shot against Eastlake. Ben Ray / The Reporter

Brandon Tagle pulls up for a three pointer in transition. Ben Ray / The Reporter

Brandon Tagle pulls up for a three pointer in transition. Ben Ray / The Reporter

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