JaQuaya Miller raided her teammate’s cupboard and poured herself an oversized bowl of Cap’n Crunch cereal. She grabbed a ladle to use as her spoon.
“You know you remember that,” Jordyn Jenkins said to Miller, scowling. “And you ate it with the ladle.”
“It was Cap’n Crunch!” Miller laughed. “That’s why I was like, ‘OK, I’m about to get in on this.’ But I got full, so Jordyn finished it for me.”
They don’t mind sharing cereal, and they don’t mind sharing the paint on the basketball court either.
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They’re the Chargers’ towers, Miller at 6-foot-4 and Jenkins at 6-foot-2.
About this time last year, they helped Kentridge storm into the Tacoma Dome and the record four wins in four days to win its first state championship.
This year, Miller and Jenkins are older, more experienced and benefit from a working relationship where they communicate on the court without using words.
“We work so well together,” Jenkins said. “Our chemistry is a big part.”
They have just about perfected the high-low game.
Miller, a junior, works around the free-throw line with Jenkins at the block. Miller is so tall and such a good passer (and she can shoot), that she’s able to find passing lanes to Jenkins that few others can. And Jenkins, a sophomore, catches everything.
And Miller doesn’t mind that it means she sacrifices individual points. She said those high-low plays are her favorite.
“I just like how we make each other better,” Miller said. “I threw her a full-court pass (on Saturday) and she got a bucket. I was like ‘That’s a dime.’ And I got the assist because she’s so strong.”
Jenkins’ parents, Alan and Joya Jenkins, both played basketball at Franklin High School in Seattle and her brother, Alan Jenkins III, is a senior who played football this past fall for Kentridge. So she said she’s played since kindergarten.
Miller, however, didn’t play until she was in the seventh grade after moving back to the Kent area and joining several select-teams like Tree of Hope. Her father, 6-foot-8 Eddie Ja’Quay Miller, played at Washington State University from 1999-2000.
Jenkins and Miller finally played together for the first time last season. And they said it wasn’t until they reached the Tacoma Dome last year that they felt they started to perfect that high-low game that’s now their offense’s staple.
“I knew she was coming in her freshman year, but I’ve never played with her,” said Miller, a junior. “It was hard for me. But as we began playing together and practicing together, we got more comfortable with each other and things got easier. It became a part of our game.”
And eventually, the two became friends off the court as well. They hang out at each other’s houses, each other’s cereal, do homework together and hitch rides around town from senior Morgan Gary.
“We’ll go get whatever, usually pho,” Jenkins said. “Because Morgan is a vegetarian … and she’s the one driving.”
They also share an American Sign Language class, which has come in handy on the court.
But Miller said her favorite moment so far this year wasn’t on the basketball court.
It was at an Italian restaurant in Oregon when the team went there Dec. 21-23 to play in a showcase.
“I think Jontay (Jenkins) got fettuccine — I had to have some of hers. It was with shrimp, so I had to have that,” Miller said. “I had ziti. It was all right, but Jontay’s was better. Lexi (Noszlopy) had tortellini. That was hittin’. I had to have a bit of it all because everything was looking so good.”
Miller, who has talked to most every coach in the Pac-12 and hopes to make a college decision after the season, and Jenkins said they’d like to both be playing professionally someday.
“I’d like to be somewhere in Italy, with the good pasta,” Miller said.
Last year, Miller was instrumental in bringing Jenkins into the offensive fold for the Chargers. As Miller would take the brunt of defenses trying to shut her down at the high spot, Jenkins would sneak in and get the easier buckets.
Miller, the two-time 4A NPSL Cascade MVP, averages 8.9 points and 8.7 rebounds and 3.8 steals. Jenkins leads the team in scoring at 17 points per game with 7.1 rebounds.
“JaQuaya is an incredibly humble kid, she really is willing to defer. And Jordyn is the same way, but you can’t have them both doing that,” Kentridge coach Bob Sandall said. “Jordyn has taken the role of scoring the most points. That’s not on a knock on JaQuaya, it’s just how their relationship has evolved.”
Over the course of the 2018 4A West Central/Southwest District Tournament, Jenkins averaged 17.8 points in four games and Miller 15.6 in three games. But to both of them, points aren’t the focus, the team winning is.
“JaQuaya is super unselfish and she loves other people’s success more than hers,” Jenkins said. “Yeah we want to score but we want our guards to score as well. We’re not ball hogs, it’s not about getting to 10 or 20 points.”
And while they’re the two most noticeable players on the court, Kentridge has plenty of standout guards, too. Morgan Gary has signed her letter of intent to Northern Arizona University, while Tresai McCarver is the point guard and vocal leader. Sophomore Daylani Ballena led Kentridge with 19 points against Bellarmine Prep to secure a bye into Thursday’s state quarterfinals in the Tacoma Dome on Thursday.
Kentridge awaits to play the winner of Wednesday’s game between Lewis and Clark vs. Woodinville.
“They’ve played enough games, they get it,” Sandall said. “If we are not worried about who gets the most points, it gives us the best chance to win and be successful.”
Kentlake coach G.C. Hillburn has certainly seen enough of those Charger towers, though. Kentlake has played Kentridge seven times over the past two years in either regular-season or postseason games.
“When you play those two, it’s not just that they are big and strong but also athletic,” Hillburn said. “They can jump and they can run as well. You really have to extend whatever your defensive schemes are.”
He said it’s one thing to game plan for one skilled post player. But two?
“It’s tough because when we play each other, its two very good defensive teams that have a pretty good idea of what each other’s personnel are capable of doing,” Hillburn said. “It’s something that I really relish and look forward to because I enjoy the challenge.”
They’re the defending champs, but Kentridge (24-2) isn’t playing this state tournament like it is the favorite. It lost to No. 1-ranked Central Valley (24-0) and its Stanford-bound twins Lexie and Lacie Hull, 57-39, at the ShoWare Center earlier this season.
But Sandall has made sure that they don’t lose focus on what’s at hand at the present.
“The kids are really able to focus, we’ve talked all along about having the vision of the end goal and that everything needs to lead up to that,” Sandall said. “It’s focusing one day, one game, one possession at a time and getting better each day.”
Staff writer TJ Cotterill contributed to this report