GIRLS BASKETBALL: KW stops Federal Way, advances to state championship game

Lindsey Moore was worried.

Teammate Shelby Wahlberg was confident.

Despite emotions that hit both ends of the spectrum, the Kentwood High girls basketball team did Friday night what its done all season — win.

Jessie Genger scored 16 points and Moore added 15, but it was Wahlberg’s late 3-pointer that ultimately sealed the deal for the Conquerors, who knocked off Federal Way on Friday night at the Tacoma Dome 49-43 in a girls Class 4A state tournament semifinal game.

Clinging to a 46-43 lead with under a minute remaining, Wahlberg drained a 3-pointer from the wing — the only one Kentwood hit all night — giving the Conquerors just enough breathing room to hold back the Eagles and earn their first state championship berth in school history.

With the win, Kentwood (27-1) advances to Saturday’s 7 p.m. state championship game against third-ranked Snohomish (24-2). Snohomish blasted Moses Lake 47-28 in the tournament’s other semifinal game.

“I had myself worried,” laughed Moore about the narrow final result against a team that the Conquerors had beaten by double digits twice earlier in the season. “Shelby hit a big one for us right there at the end. If she didn’t hit that, it’s a whole different ballgame.”

It was a whole different ballgame than what the second-ranked Conquerors have been used to. Kentwood opened the tournament Wednesday with a 73-39 drubbing of Kamiak, then throttled top-ranked Pasco on Thursday, 59-44.

The third time around, however, proved to be a different story against Federal Way.

The Eagles stifled the Conquerors with a physical, in-your-face defense throughout. The result was a subpar shooting night for the Conquerors, who connected on just 1 of 14 from 3-point land.

But that one couldn’t have come at a more opportune time.

“I just had the instinct to shoot it,” said Wahlberg of her only bucket of the night. “I hadn’t been hitting any throughout the whole time and I had confidence in my shot. I hoped it was going in and it went in. That clinched it.”

Kentwood coach Keith Hennig wasn’t bothered by Kentwood’s cold shooting night.

“(Wahlberg) hit the one that counted and that’s all that mattered,” he said.

The Conquerors also struggled at the line, typically a place where they build their big margins of victory. Kentwood hit just 18 of 30 from the charity stripe.

In a game that included four ties and five lead changes, Federal Way remained close throughout.

The Eagles final lead came with 1:18 remaining in the first half at 23-22.

And it appeared the Conquerors were finally going to put away the Eagles early in the fourth, when Moore hit a pair of free throws to push Kentwood’s lead to 43-34. Instead, Federal Way ripped off a 7-0 run, cutting the deficit to 43-41 with 3:46 to play.

Federal Way would get no closer.

“We had to play a perfect game to beat them,” said Federal Way coach Danny Graham. “It’s tough to see because we got so close. But Kentwood is awesome.”

Kentwood 49, Federal Way 43

Kentwood 8 18 10 13 — 49

Federal Way 10 13 11 9 — 43

Kentwood: Jessie Genger 16, Lindsey Moore 15, Shelby Wahlberg 3, Kylie Huerta 9, Courtney Johnson 6, Liz Mills 0, Kelli Rider 0, Maddison Rankin 0, Sanda Milovic 0.

Federal Way: Daah Huertas-Vining 2, Talia Watson 2, Molly Campbell 0, Jacqie Evenson 10, Amanda Earlywine 0, Brittany Barrington 17, Joanne Packer 2, Chantel Dixon 2, TyShana Burgess 8.