What’s scariest about the Kentwood High School boys basketball team?
One is when Eli’Sha Sheppard rises for a dunk on an unsuspecting opponent.
Another is how complete this team is.
The third-ranked Conquerors flashed both of those in a 76-60 win over Emerald Ridge on Saturday at Mount Tahoma in the quarterfinals of the 4A West Central/Southwest bidistrict tournament in a win that clinched a third consecutive trip to the Tacoma Dome for the 4A state tournament.
There’s Kentwood’s dynamic backcourt of Darius LuBom (13 points), Koby Huerta (11 points) and Rayvaughn Bolton (nine points).
But 6-foot-5 Beau Roggenbach’s and 6-4 Sheppard’s productivity sometimes gets lost in the recognition. Their ability to lock down the paint defensively and provide an inside scoring presence on offense gives Kentwood fans reason to believe it will make a return trip to the 4A state title game – and maybe even win it this year.
“It’s a blessing,” Sheppard said. “We’ve been waiting for this moment for a year now. We trusted the process, we practice hard every day and we knew we could make it back if we did what we needed to.”
Roggenbach scored a team-high 17 points and Sheppard scored 13 – including a monstrous dunk midway through the fourth quarter.
He caught the ball on the right wing, had an Emerald Ridge defender caught in a two-on-one, took two steps and soared for the right-handed dunk while also drawing the foul.
“I didn’t even expect to do it,” Sheppard said. “I jumped and he hit me and I was close so I threw it in. I just kept rising.”
And since Kentwood is ranked No. 5 in the WIAA’s RPI rankings, the Conks secured a trip to the Tacoma Dome. The top eight ranked teams to qualify for the state tournament are guaranteed a spot in the Tacoma Dome.
The win also sends them to the district semifinals, where they will face No. 2 Union at 7:45 p.m. Thursday at Mount Tahoma.
Kentwood (21-2) lost to Union, 76-69, in a nonleague game on Dec. 10.
But the Conquerors have been playing some of its best basketball of late – ending Federal Way’s 63-game win streak last week for the 4A NPSL title and beating Emerald Ridge in the winner-to-state game on Saturday for its 11th consecutive win.
“And we still feel like we can only get better,” Sheppard said. “We are all on the same page and we all have the same goal.
“What’s special about us is that we’re family and we’re close. Even after this season we’re all going to stay in contact. It’s a brotherhood.”
And Sheppard said the bench makes Kentwood just as complete as its guards and big men. Guard D’Angelo Minnis scored nine points off the bench and 6-5 Armann Gill helps solidify Kentwood’s interior defense when Roggenbach or Sheppard aren’t in.
Emerald Ridge got a game-high 18 points from Chase McGuire, Jason Cassens scored 14 points and Tevin McClain added 13. The Jaguars head to a winner-to-state, loser-out game against Kennedy Catholic at 6 p.m. Wednesday at Mount Tahoma.
TJ Cotterill: 253-597-8677