Hoops heat up in SPSL North with Kent and Tahoma Schools

In the South Puget Sound League 4A North Division the Kent and Tahoma schools boys basketball teams will likely spend the season chasing favorite Mount Rainier, which as of Tuesday had one loss in league, and was tied atop the division standings with Kent-Meridian.

In the South Puget Sound League 4A North Division the Kent and Tahoma schools boys basketball teams will likely spend the season chasing favorite Mount Rainier, which as of Tuesday had one loss in league, and was tied atop the division standings with Kent-Meridian.

Where it all shakes out at the end of the season in February is anybody’s guess but it’s possible there will be a number of familiar faces from local schools in the playoffs.


Falcons finding selflessness

Kentlake senior Jaron Heck said on Dec. 15 that the Falcons wanted to beat Mount Rainier.

On Tuesday, that’s just what they did, putting the Rams away 80-77 on the road.

“I think we have the ability to beat them,” Heck said a few days before the game. “We have to come ready.”

Heck led the team in scoring with 26 points in the victory while fellow senior Austin Pernell — who is also a standout football and baseball player for Kentlake — poured in 23. Dedrian Miller chipped in 19.

“We’re ready at this point,” Heck said on Dec. 15. “We’re ready to start winning games.”

With the win, Kentlake improved to 2-4 in league in 2-5 overall, bouncing back after an 84-69 loss at Kent-Meridian which is currently at the top of the standings at 5-1 which counts its only loss to Mount Rainier on Dec. 2.

“We have learned that we have to play together… because selfishness won’t get you anywhere in anything that you do,” Heck said.

A year ago Kentlake got to the playoffs for the first time in a long time, this year the goal is to make it to state for the first time in school history, and Heck explained the keys to accomplishing those goals.

“Our expectations for the team are to basically work together and move the ball around,” he said. “And to make it back to the playoffs. We’re fast, really fast. We’ve been playing together basically since seventh or eighth grade. We’re good friends so that comes into playing together as a team.”

The team will have to work harder to crash the glass, Heck said, because they’re not as tall or beefy as say K-M.

Kentlake will try and build off its wins after some early season struggles, Pernell noted.

“At the very beginning our big challenge that we just overcame was our selfishness and not sharing the ball enough,” he said.

Pernell stated the team wants to get further than it did last year in the playoffs, but, as Heck noted the personal relationships among the players will make a difference.

“The way we connect as a team can help us,” Pernell said. “Our biggest strengths are our speed… our ability to drive (because) we run a dribble-drive offense. We can play with any team because of our speed.”

The Falcons certainly showed that to be true in the match up with the Rams.



Conquest for another state title

Kentwood’s seniors know what it’s like to win a state championship — they did it as sophomores in 2010.

A season ago with Brian Davis taking over as head coach, the Conquerors made it to the West Central District championship game and played in the 4A state tournament.

“We’ve always had a high standard,” said senior Austin Benson. “We’ve always had a common goal. It’s our senior year.”

And they want to cut down the nets again in the state title game.

“You always want to try and improve on what you did last year,” said 6-foot-6 forward Taylor Jones. “We want to get to where we were last year and see where we can go from there. We definitely have the talent. We can score. We’ve kind of proved that. We have a lot of offensive weapons.”

Getting along off the court is also crucial, Benson said, to the team’s success throughout the season.

“It’s beyond basketball,” he said. “We all get along really well.”

There are team dinners, trips to the bowling alley as well as the times hanging out that have helped the Conks learn to communicate well on and off the court.

“Our No. 1 thing is our energy,” Jones said. “We’ve shown that we’ve had it. Once we sustain it consistently throughout the game then we’ll be at our best.”

A lesson the team learned in a 61-56 loss on Dec. 10 to Thomas Jefferson, explained senior Jeremy Smith, is the importance of playing at a high level.

“We learned not to come out without energy,” Smith said. “Not to assume that we’re automatically going to beat them. Any team can beat us.”

A lack of consistency bit Kentwood in the opening quarter of a Dec. 16 contest at Kentridge, when the Chargers raced out to an 17-8 lead, which forced the Conks to come back on both ends of the floor in the second quarter.

They did that, by cranking up the energy and being consistent, tying the game at 26-26 at half before pulling away in the second half for a 58-49 victory.

Smith led Kentwood with 17 points while Jones tallied 11 as Benson and Jackson Huerta both chipped in 8 points.

Before that game, Jones explained, the team had to remember to keep its eye on the immediate task at hand.

“When people start focusing on games that aren’t in front of you, you may get caught up,” Jones said. “There’s a lot of good teams in this league.”

What Smith also thought was a key for Kentwood this season is the core of veteran players. The Conks have five seniors on the squad.

“Our leadership (is a strength). Half the team are seniors,” Smith said. “That experience helps us a whole.”

And those seniors know exactly how it feels to hoist the state championship trophy.

“We obviously do want to get to that point,” Benson said. “We’re a different team (than two years ago), but, it’s always motivating because we know what it takes to get there. That’s always the goal.”

Royals look to rumble to the top of SPSL North

Kent-Meridian is fast yet filled with big, strong athletes.

A glance at the roster yields some familiarity for anyone who follows high school football as names such as Cartez Green, Mike Banks and Boogie Yuashi were all on the Royals football squad list, as well in the fall.

Early in the season Kent-Meridian has victories against Kentwood (77-72 on Dec. 10) as well as Kentlake, Kentridge and Auburn, and the only conference loss to Mount Rainier, a favorite to win the league.

The Royals get the Rams again on Jan. 10.

Banks led K-M in scoring in the Dec. 16 victory over Kentlake, racking up 25 points and helping extend a three point lead early in the third quarter to a decisive double-digit win, while Martel Taylor-Barone chipped in 19 points.

Banks explained the team’s early success in one word, “defense.”

“We’re talking,” Banks said after the win over Kentlake. “We’re trusting each other.”

Trust and good communication will help the Royals continue their success, Banks noted, with the road hopefully leading to the state tournament.

“No one can stop us if we execute the way we’re supposed to,” Banks said. “We’ll get to state if we stay humble.”