GIRLS BASKETBALL: Kentwood wins state championship

  • BY Wire Service
  • Monday, April 27, 2009 11:18am
  • Sports

Her play has spoke volumes all season.

But when that season came to a close Saturday night at the Tacoma, Kentwood High’s Lindsey Moore was succinct and precise.

“Mission accomplished,” Moore said to a sea of reporters all the while beaming from ear to ear.

Indeed.

Because after three previous cracks at the girls Class 4A state basketball tournament, the Conquerors finally got it right. Heck, they got it perfect, winning four straight.

Courtney Johnson scored a tournament and game-high 18 points while Moore, Kentwood’s University of Nebraska-bound star, added 16 as the Conquerors knocked off Snohomish 60-47 for the state title.

It’s Kentwood’s first state title on the girls basketball court.

“Last year, we were crying yesterday. Now we’re crying, but it’s just tears of joy,” said the University of Nebraska-bound Moore, who added four rebounds, three assists and was named the tournament MVP.

“We are so excited right now. There isn’t a better feeling. We know all our hard work paid off,” Johnson said.

And it paid off due to an unselfish team-first philosophy that coach Keith Hennig has preached – and the girls bought in to – from the beginning.

“This is just a dream come true,” Hennig said. “I’ve got the easiest job in the world because I just have the best girls. They don’t care who scores, they don’t care who gets the most minutes, they care about winning.”

Which is pretty much all Kentwood (28-1) did this season. The only blemish of the season came last week, when the Conks fell 52-50 against Auburn Riverside in the district championship. Moore missed that game with a tender hamstring.

But the loss proved to be a blessing in disguise, Hennig said, because it showed Kentwood could compete with anyone, even in the absence of its star.

“That gave us a lot of confidence,” the coach insisted.

Kentwood came out Saturday night against Snohomish with all the confidence in the world, taking a 5-0 lead right off the tip on a layup from Jessie Genger and a 3-pointer from guard Kylie Huerta.

It was a lead Kentwood would not relinquish the entire night, though the Panthers did keep things tight throughout, even tying the game on four separate occasions.

Kentwood received its usual big play from Moore, Genger and Huerta. Genger scored 9, including 4 of 5 from the line. Huerta, Kentwood’s diminutive 5-foot, ballhandling wizard added 11. Six of those 11 points were acrobatic, scoop shots off glass in a lane filled with two and, sometimes, three Snohomish defenders.

But one of the keys for Kentwood came from a somewhat unexpected source – Courtney Johnson, whose 18 points were the most she has scored since a tournament in December.

“I think throughout this season, we’ve played with challenges. We played without Lindsey, we’ve had injuries, sicknesses. And we stuck together,” said Johnson, a sophomore. “We knew that we could win … that if we stuck together that we could do it.”

During fourth-quarter crunch time Saturday night, the Conks did just that.

Kentwood took a 46-38 lead into the final eight minutes, then hit the extra gear its found so frequently this season. The Conks ripped off an 8-2 run to start the quarter, pushing its lead to 54-40 with 5:38 to play, virtually sealing the team’s first state title.

Huerta opened the run with a pair of acrobatic, gravity-defying layups, the second of which she converted with her back to the basket. Johnson followed with a short runner off glass thanks to an assist from Moore. Moore then capped the title-sealing victory with a steal followed by a coast-to-coast layup.

“It feels amazing,” said Genger, who earned second-team all-tournament accolades. “For this to be my last chance at a state championship, senior year, it feels awesome. I just can’t describe it.”

Once the title was in hand, all nine Conquerors stormed the court in celebration. Hennig and wife Wendy, the team’s assistant, stood back for a few moments just to enjoy the show.

“When you can put nine girls on the court who care about winning, good things happen,” Hennig said.

Which is exactly what happened for the Conquerors.

As Moore noted, mission accomplished.

Kentwood 60, Snohomish 47

Snohomish 16 8 14 9 — 47

Kentwood 22 9 15 14 — 60

Snohomish: Emily Guthrie 12, Ally Schmit 6, Karly Lampman 6, Marissa Timmerman 2, Katie Benson 16, Joanna Balin 5.

Kentwood: Lindsey Moore 16, Jessie Genger 9, Lindsey Huerta 11, Courtney Johnson 18, Liz Mills 2, Shelby Wahlberg 4, Maddison Rankin 0, Kelli Rider 0, Sanda Milovic 0.


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