Few people know Kent high school girls basketball better than Bob Sandall.
That’s because he’s coached at three of the four area high schools – Kentwood, Kentlake, and now Kentridge.
On Thursday, he completed the quadrumvirate leading the Chargers to the Class 4 state semifinals.
Their fifth meeting with Kentlake was their most meaningful one. Sixth-ranked Kentridge recovered from a slow first half to overtake the No. 9 Falcons, 55-44, in a 4A quarterfinal showdown in the Tacoma Dome.
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With that win, the Chargers (24-5) became the last school in the Kent School District to reach a state semifinal, joining Kent-Meridian (1995), Kentlake (2002) and Kentwood (2007, 2009).
“It’s huge,” Kentridge guard Morgan Gary said. “We’re making history.”
But first, they needed to take care of a NPSL rival one final time.
And it did not look good early. Kentlake (22-5) hit its final five field goal attempts of the first half, capped by Kylee Johnson’s straightaway 3-pointer with four seconds remaining, to grab a 29-15 lead.
Now a 29-15 deficit against another school might feel like just that – a 14-point deficit. Not the Falcons, who enjoy playing tight, close-to-the-vest games under coach Galen Hillburn.
But even grinder teams have to score, too – and the Falcons didn’t until two Aniston Denckla free throws with two seconds remaining in the third quarter.
By then, the Falcons had lost their lead entirely – and only led 31-29 heading into the final quarter.
“You know, it’s basketball,” Hillburn said. “My kids have been good offensively all year. I’ve got to do more to help them out.”
Kentlake led 36-31 early in the fourth quarter, but the Chargers wiped it out with a 19-5 run over the next six minutes. Sandall said he decided to do something he’s rarely done all season by going to a man-to-man press – on the suggestion of his players at halftime.
“Give them credit, they are competitors,” Sandall said.
Gary’s 3-pointer from the top was a back-breaker with 1:57 to go, giving Kentridge a 46-41 lead.
“I am never surprised by how hard my kids compete,” Sandall said. “But I was surprised that we managed to chip away at that (Kentlake) lead so quickly.”
Ninth grader Jordyn Jenkins led Kentridge with 20 points. Gary added 17. JaQuaya Miller had three points and 15 rebounds.