Darius Lubom drove to the hoop and Malik Sanchez got himself in position. And when Lubom’s shot rolled off the front of the rim, Sanchez rose, grabbed the basketball with two hands, and slammed it into the basket.
“That really sparked us,” said Kentwood High School boys basketball coach Blake Solomon. “That was huge.”
Rayvaughn Bolton and Marcus Lubom each hit 3-pointers after that to push Kentwood’s lead to double-digits and the third-ranked Conquerors held on despite Sanchez fouling out with four minutes remaining to beat Bellarmine Prep, 67-59, in the quarterfinals of the 4A West Central District 3 tournament Saturday at Puyallup High School.
Kentwood (21-2) clinched a Class 4A regional berth in the state tournament and advances to face 4A South Puget Sound League Northeast rival Kentridge in the district semifinals at 7:45 p.m. Thursday at Puyallup High School.
“It’s just a great feeling,” said Bolton, who scored a team-high 17 points and made all three of his 3-point attempts when Kentwood began to pull away in the third quarter. “We followed Coach’s instructions. We ran our offense well, rebounded, and that sealed the game.”
Rex Bodoia had 24 points and 14 rebounds for Bellarmine Prep (13-9), which plays Todd Beamer in an elimination game at 6 p.m. Tuesday at Mount Tahoma High School.
Kentwood led 38-34 in the third quarter when Sanchez rose up for the tip-in dunk. The Conquerors scored on five of their next six possessions including the 3-pointers from Bolton and Marcus Lubom to go ahead 50-40.
Sanchez, who finished with 13 points, hit a jumper and followed with a three-point play on the Conks’ next possession as Kentwood pushed its lead to 13 points.
“Those are the types of plays he can make,” Solomon said. “Just a superior athlete.”
But then, trouble. Sanchez picked up his fourth foul with six minutes to go in the fourth quarter and was pulled from the game. Then Josiah Bronson got a technical foul, Sanchez re-entered with 4:20 to go, got his fifth foul on an over-the-back call 20 seconds later and the Lions had life.
Malachi Flynn, who finished with 17 points despite Kentwood face-guarding him the entire game, hit a 3-pointer and Sam Kasteler followed a Flynn miss with a basket underneath to pull the Lions to within 62-58 with less than 2 minutes remaining.
Flynn followed with a quick steal, but missed the contested layup on the other end that would have made it a one-possession game.
Bolton hit a jump shot on the next possession for Kentwood and the Conks pulled away from there.
“They are a good team,” Bellarmine Prep coach Bennie Salazar said. “They are talented, they play strong and they have quite a few guys who can score.
“Tough game. We just got to be ready for the next one.”
Timberline’s Austin Curry, who scored 12 of his 17 points in the fourth quarter, got one final look, with the Blazers down, 64-61, but missed a deep 3-pointer at the buzzer.
“I think they came out with more energy than us and then we just kind of shook it off and came back, and got the energy back,” said Chargers forward Nick Hopson, who scored a game-high 19 points.
Kentridge led 54-37 with about six minutes to go in the fourth quarter. But then Brandell Evans made a basket underneath and the Blazers (15-7) took off. Their full-court pressure forced the Chargers to turn the ball over on nine of their next 13 possessions.
Timberline went on a 16-2 run to cut the lead to 60-59 with 1:12 to play. But Hopson got a basket and Ticeson followed with his jumper as Kentridge held on.
“We took too long to get to how we needed to play,” said Evans, who finished with 13 points. “… I think it just took us being down to realize we had to fight.”
Kentridge faces Kentwood on Thursday, while Timberline plays Rogers in an elimination game at 7:45 p.m. Tuesday at Mount Tahoma.
Curtis (19-5) advances to face top-ranked Federal Way in the WCD 3 semifinals at 6 p.m. Thursday at Puyallup. Kentlake (14-10) faces Spanaway Lake in an elimination game at 6 p.m. Tuesday at Puyallup.
Carson Stowell led the Falcons with 29 points, including nine in the second quarter. Those nine points were all Kentlake scored, as Curtis sped up the game, outscoring the Falcons, make that Stowell, 20-9 in the second quarter.
“I just got off to a good start by just going hard in warm-ups and just continuing to hit shots,” Jones said. “I just come out there, get buckets, ‘D’ up and do my job.”
The Eagles (21-2) moved one step closer to winning their first district title since 2009.
Gig Harbor (14-8) got 12 points each from Casey Gearhart and Sam Gagliardi. The Tides face Puyallup in an elimination game at 7:45 p.m. Tuesday at Puyallup.