Every Kentwood High School boys basketball pregame shootaround ends with a halfcourt shooting contest.
And on every occasion, Conquerors guard Jackson Huerta is the favorite to sink one.
Getting a clear look at a midcourt heave is one thing – sinking a buzzer-beater in overtime with two defenders on you is a whole different challenge.
But one the senior was up to against Emerald Ridge.
After the Jaguars’ Jeremy Harris made two free throws to give Emerald Ridge the lead with 2.5 seconds to go in overtime, Huerta dashed up the left side and got off a shot just inside halfcourt that went in, lifting Kentwood to a stunning 53-52 victory Saturday in the South Puget Sound League tournament at Puyallup High School.
The shot literally sunk the Jaguars’ season – the winner earned the league’s final seed to this week’s West Central District championships while the loser was eliminated.
Kentwood will face Narrows 4A champion Bellarmine Prep in Tacoma in the opening round of districts.
Huerta said as soon as the shot left his hand, he had a feeling the Conquerors would be celebrating.
“I am comfortable from the left (side),” Huerta said. “I spin it a little bit.”
Something was going on with that shot, because it hit the backboard first, then the front rim, then the backboard one more time before it fell through for the winner.
Huerta faced a similar shot from 10 feet back at the end of regulation, but the ball hit the front rim and barely lipped out.
Kentwood coach Blake Solomon noted the pregame shooting contest as one chance at glory – or in the players’ case, another incentive.
“One chance to make a dollar,” Solomon said, laughing.
The Jaguars led 41-31 with 7:15 remaining in regulation, but the Conquerors rallied – and tied it at 44 on Huerta’s 3-pointer with 40 seconds to go.
Emerald Ridge set up a final play for guard Marcus Harris, who was fouled splitting two Kentwood defenders with 2.5 seconds remaining. Harris – Jeremy Harris’ brother – missed both free throws.
Lakes 57, Kennedy Catholic 34: Jordan Johnson poured in 16 points, and the SPSL 2A co-champions buried the Seamount winner in the first half en route to the sub-district title at Auburn Mountainview High School.
Tahoma 52, Bethel 49: When backs are against the wall, it is a benefit to have a soccer-star-turned-point-guard leading the way.
Brie Hooks, who is headed to Colorado on a soccer scholarship, isn’t too shabby in basketball. She scored seven of her 21 points in the fourth quarter, including baskets on back-to-back drives in the lane in helping the Bears clinch the SPSL’s final seed to the district tournament.
Hooks did miss all four of her free throw attempts in the final 1:07 to give Bethel a chance to regain the lead, but the Braves committed three turnovers – and Kaytreeona Mack’s potential tying 3-point attempt from the right corner with two seconds to go hit the backboard.
Twenty seconds earlier, Savanna Haverfield made two free throws to give Tahoma a 52-49 lead. Kymber Morrison made three second-half 3-pointers for the Bears.
Tahoma will travel to Narrows League champion Yelm on Tuesday for opening round of the district tournament.Todd Milles: 253-597-8442 firstname.lastname@example.org