KW’s Smith erupts in win over Kentridge


  • BY Wire Service
  • Wednesday, February 4, 2009 12:27pm
  • Sports
Kentwood’s Josh Smith (top) delivered the biggest show Friday night

Kentwood’s Josh Smith (top) delivered the biggest show Friday night

A cape couldn’t have lifted Kentwood star Joshua Smith any higher Friday night at the ShoWare Center in Kent. Because when the moment called for a heroic perf ormance, Kentwood’s 6-foot-9, 285-pound unstoppable basketball force was more than up for the challenge.

Smith put the second-ranked Conquerors on his back, soaring to a career-high 43 points — 12 alone on thunderous two-handed dunks — and grabbed 21 rebounds, leading Kentwood past No. 9 Kentridge 62-60 in a pivotal South Puget Sound League North Division game in the Kent Shootout.

Kentwood (12-2 in league, 14-4 overall) kept pace with top-ranked Federal Way (12-2, 16-2) in the SPSL North standings on Saturday, knocking off Auburn 52-45. The loss to Kentwood dropped Kentridge (10-4, 11-7) into third place with two games to go. If Kentwood and Federal Way finish the season in a two-way tie for first, a tie-breaking game would be played on Tuesday.

But the talk last Friday was about Smith, who added a few buckets from outside the paint, blocked five shots and came away with two steals to go along with his impressive point total. Smith’s previous high came three days earlier, when he went off for 40 points in a win over Jefferson.

It’s the seventh time this season Smith has scored 30 or more points in a game.

“Me and (guard) Tre (Tyler) are the 1-2 options,” said Smith, the most highly-recruited junior in the nation. “So when Tre went out (with foul trouble in the second quarter), I was like, ‘OK, we’re not going to go unless I go.’

“So I just tried to step my game up.”

And he did just that, scoring 18 of Kentwood’s 21 points in the third quarter, turning a 32-25 halftime deficit into a 46-40 advantage going into the final eight minutes.

But as key as Smith’s record-setting performance was, unheralded sophomore Alec Wilson delivered the biggest shot of the night for the Conks. Trailing 60-59 with six seconds remaining, Wilson pulled up and hit what proved to be the game-winning 3-pointer. Kentridge’s Gary Bell followed up the shot by connecting with teammate Brendon Westendorf on a long outlet pass. Westendorf’s contended layup was just off the mark, sending the Conquerors into a celebratory rush onto the court.

“Coach (Michael Angelidis) put me in to shoot, so I was definitely going to be shooting,” Wilson said. “I didn’t have any doubt in my mind.”

The only thing in doubt in a game that included five ties and five lead changes was who would come out on top. Kentridge, behind dazzling guard play from Bell, Shaquielle McKissic and Laron Daniels, took an 11-10 lead after the first quarter.

The Chargers proceeded to go on a 16-1 run in the first four minutes of the second quarter, taking a 27-11 lead with 4:46 remaining in the half. The run included a pair of technicals on both Angelidis and Tyler. McKissic and Bell combined for 11 of the 16 points during the spurt.

Smith then went to work.

He scored nine of Kentwood’s 15 points in the second quarter, getting the Conquerors to within seven points, 32-25, at the half. Smith then scored Kentwood’s first 12 points of the third quarter, lifting the Conquerors to a 35-34 lead.

“We had runs, but we let them come back into it,” said Bell, who finished with a team-high 22 points. “They have big Josh and it’s hard to maintain a lead when they have him. He’s not really stoppable. He’s big. We tried to double-team him, triple-team him, but we couldn’t do it. If he missed, he’d just go back up and tip it in or dunk it.”

But Bell, one of the North Division’s premier shooters, did his best to keep the Chargers in the game. Bell showed his tremendous range with three minutes remaining in the game, connecting on a long 3-pointer, getting Kentridge to within one at 53-52.

Smith answered with a layup on the other end, setting the stage for Bell’s game-tying 3-pointer with 2:22 remaining. The Kentridge sophomore hit the shot just seconds after missing everything on a previous 3-pointer and to the sound of Kentwood fans chanting “air ball.” Bell then converted a pair of free throws on Kentridge’s next possession, giving the Chargers a momentary 57-55 lead.

Kentridge took its last lead at 60-59 on a free throw from McKissic, setting the stage for Wilson’s big shot.

But it was Smith who put Wilson and the Conquerors in position for the win.

“Perimeter wise, I thought we did a pretty good job stopping their other four guys,” Kentridge coach Dave Jamison said. “You can’t expect to stop someone with that big of size (as Smith). And he’s athletic. He’s not just a big, slow guy. He gets the ball and makes moves. He was hitting turnarounds and leaners. Everything.”

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