With their season hanging in the balance, the Kentwood Conquerors turned to their proficient 2-3 zone defense to beat the Emerald Ridge Jaguars on Feb. 18 at Puyallup High School.
Kentwood recorded steals on Emerald Ridge’s first three possessions of the fourth quarter and held on for a 49-46 win during the loser-out West Central District 4A tournament.
Conquerors senior guard Sarah Toeaina, who has committed to play next season at the University of Hawaii, finished with a team-high 20 points and four steals.
Kentwood’s defensive pressure was the difference in the final eight minutes.
“We were moving really well and kept our hands up in the passing lanes,” Conquerors head coach Lisa Ashley said. “We were adjusting really well. We had a harder time doing that in the first half. (Toeaina) was huge for us. She’s a D-I player, and she’s able to create and make things happen.”
Kentwood built a 17-8 lead at the end of the first quarter, but Emerald Ridge didn’t go away quietly. Jaguars junior guard Riley Clarke, who tallied a game-high 22 points, spearheaded the comeback.
Emerald Ridge got its first lead at 31-29 when post Alyssa Heslip knocked down consecutive free throws with 4:19 left in the third quarter.
Jaguars head coach Brad Mirk said his team never gave up despite its sluggish start.
“I couldn’t be more proud of them,” he said. “It would have been easy early on when we got down to kind of let it go, but we fought and we battled right down to the end.
“We made some big shots and played great defense all night,” Mirk said. “It was a hard, well-played game between two good teams.”