GIRLS BASKETBALL: AR stuns Kentwood for district title

Even with as much talent and depth as the Kentwood High girls basketball team has, the top-ranked Conquerors couldn’t overcome the loss of Lindsey Moore Saturday night at Puyallup High.

Without Moore, the South Puget Sound League North Division’s MVP, the Conquerors simply didn’t have enough against eighth-ranked Auburn Riverside, falling to the Ravens 52-50 in the West Central District III championship game.

Moore missed the game with a tight hamstring, a mild injury she suffered during practice on Thursday.

“That was probably one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do was to watch that,” said Moore, who is averaging a team-high 15.5 points per game and is one of Kentwood’s top defenders. “We just didn’t execute down the stretch. We had a lot of turnovers. We need to limit those.”

It was the first loss of the season for Kentwood (24-1), which will take the district’s No. 2 seed to the state tournament, which begins on Wednesday at the Tacoma Dome. Both teams will learn their first-round state opponents during a draw Sunday afternoon.

It’s the first time in three tries this season that Auburn Riverside (20-6) has beaten the Conquerors.

“I feel so bad for them to not have Lindsey play. My heart breaks for Lindsey and Kentwood,” said Auburn Riverside coach Ed Rosin.

But it remained a big win for the Ravens, who will take the district’s top seed to state.

“This is huge, (it) gives us confidence going into the (state) tournament,” Rosin said. “This solidifies that we’re here.”

Even without Moore, Kentwood was in good position to win its third straight district crown. The Conquerors took a 22-11 lead with 6:15 left in the second quarter on a 12-foot baseline jumper by Liz Mills.

But Auburn Riverside, the two-time defending Class 3A state champions, didn’t relent. Without Moore, one of Kentwood’s primary ballhandlers, the Ravens forced the Conquerors into 21 turnovers. Those 21 turnovers led to 16 Auburn Riverside points.

“I can’t remember too many extended minutes out there through 24 games that we haven’t had Lindsey on the floor,” said Kentwood coach Keith Hennig. “And I think our girls played a great game considering Lindsey does so much for this team. I am really proud of them today.”

The game lived up to all the hype as there were five lead changes and eight ties. Kentwood clung to a 50-48 lead with 2:57 remaining after Shelby Wahlberg connected on a pair of free throws.

Auburn Riverside point guard Mercedes Wetmore tied the game 50-50 moments later with a runner off glass.

The play set the stage for Riverside guard Amanda Thomson’s heroic finish.

With 12.4 seconds remaining, Wetmore got deep in the paint, but was unable to get a good look at the basket. She then dished to Thomson, who streaked to the glass and converted a layup.

Kentwood’s Kylie Huerta followed with a long jump shot that just rimmed out.

“We just had to get a shot up,” said Thomson, who ironically transferred from Kentwood to Auburn Riverside before the school year began. “The play was initially for Mercedes and she couldn’t get the shot, so I knew I had to step up when she kicked me the ball.”

And Thomson did just that, sending the Ravens into a celebratory frenzy on the court after her big bucket.

It’s the first time Kentwood has lost to an SPSL North opponent since Jan. 3, 2006, a string of 53 straight wins. Coincidentally, it was the Ravens who handed the Conquerors that loss.

“Lindsey’s a great player and so is Kentwood,” Thomson said. “But I feel like our team stepped up.”

That said, it’s hard to get past how well Kentwood played without its top player. Kentwood’s Jessie Genger led all scorers with 18 points. The Conquerors also received nine points from Wahlberg and seven from Courtney Johnson.

Wetmore led the Ravens with 13 points, seven of which came in the second quarter, when it appeared Kentwood would take command. Kat Cooper added 10 points and 10 rebounds for the Ravens.

“It could have gone either way at the end,” Genger lamented. “It was just one of those games. I think we were a little more composed at the beginning and if we took care of the ball a little better, we could have had them. But, it’s good for us.”

Auburn Riverside 52, Kentwood 50

Auburn Riverside 11 12 16 13 — 52

Kentwood 13 15 8 14 — 50

Auburn Riverside: Mercedes Wetmore 13, Amanda Thomson 6, Kara Jenkins 9, Nichole Jackson 5, Kat Cooper 10, Makenna Clark 0, Brook Hinkens 9.

Kentwood: Jessie Genger 18, Shelby Wahlberg 9, Kylie Huerta 6, Courtney Johnson 7, Liz Mills 6, Sanda Milovic 0, Kelli Rider 4.