All week, the focus at the Class 4A girls basketball championships was on junior-heavy powerhouse Central Valley High School, led by the Hull sisters.
And when the Bears unexpectedly went down at the hands of Bellarmine Prep in the 4A quarterfinals, suddenly the attention shifted to the Lions’ underclassmen — and, in particular, junior Shalyse Smith.
But after Saturday?
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Seventh-ranked Kentridge has a pretty special young group, too, and proudly clinched its first 4A title with a 60-46 victory over No. 3 Glacier Peak in the Tacoma Dome.
The Chargers’ inside duo of JaQuaya Miller (game-high 27 points, 17 rebounds) and Jordyn Jenkins (17 points, 12 rebounds) stole the show as Kentridge’s power game went unmatched, and eventually wore down the Grizzlies, who had their 24-game winning streak snapped.
“It was extremely special,” Jenkins said. “I never knew we were going to get this far. We are good enough.”
In some ways, it is hard to believe the Chargers (25-5) had five losses coming into the state tournament. In fact, they were on a three-game skid — all before Miller and Jenkins woke up.
The first half Saturday played out as many thought — Kentridge’s interior threats trading shot for shot with Glacier Peak’s talented guards: Paisley Johnson and Sam Fatkin.
The Chargers got 27 of their 60 points in the paint — and tallied 20 second-chance points. Johnson and Fatkin combined for 26 points.
Kentridge led 37-35 heading into the final quarter.
And at the right time, the Chargers guards showed up to hit clutch shots when it counted.
It started with Tresai McCarver’s right-side 3-pointer with four minutes remaining to extend Kentridge’s lead to 46-38.
On the Chargers’ next trip, McCarver banked in an 8-foot shot off the glass.
And finally, Bronte Fougere put the nail in Glacier Peak’s coffin with a deep 3-pointeer with 1:25 to go — it was 53-41 for Kentridge.
As important was as the Chargers’ defensive effort, holding the Grizzlies to 18 second-half points on 6-fo-27 shooting
“Those two (Miller and Jenkins) obviously carried the day as far as stats go, but … defensively against a really good offensive team, we held them in check,” Chargers coach Bob Sandall said. “It was a great team effort.”
Of course, this win was special for those who have been around Sandall, who has been nearly a lifer in the Kent School District.
The soft-spoken coach took his first head-coaching job at Kentwood in the 1980s, then spent two seasons at Kentlake (1999-2001).
And when Mark Champoux stepped down at Kentridge in 2010, Sandall took over the reins coming off a one-win season.
Now, the Chargers are state champions.
“He wanted it.” Miller said, “as much as we wanted it.”