Sports

Raders get tuneup for state competition

By COLE COSGROVE

Associate editor

Guaranteed a ticket to state, little is at stake today when the Jefferson girls basketball team plays for third or fourth place in the final day of the West Central District tournament.

Jefferson plays Enumclaw at 10 a.m. at the University of Puget Sound. It’s a rematch of the Feb. 22 SPSL tournament game for third and fourth, which Jefferson lost 78-52.

Kentlake, which beat Jefferson 53-40 Tuesday, plays Prairie at 6 p.m. today at UPS in the tournament’s championship game. The top seven teams advance to state, which starts March 12 in the Tacoma Dome. State tournament brackets will be posted tomorrow at www.wiaa.com.

“All the teams are tough at this level,” Jefferson coach Mike Grady said. “The joke was, as we were celebrating our win (Feb. 28 that clinched the state berth), the kids wanted to know who they’re playing next. When we saw it was Kentlake, someone said, ‘Do we have to play them?’ Well, look who’s left, besides us –– Kentlake, Prairie and Enumclaw, teams ranked third, fourth and sixth in state. So that shows the ignorance of our kids, not knowing how far they’ve come.”

In Tuesday’s game against third-ranked Kentlake, Jefferson was overmatched from the start by a team that hasn’t lost an in-state game all year. Kentlake expanded a 24-12 lead with a 9-1 run to end the first half up by 20 points, 33-13.

“We’re already in (state), so the main thing is we wanted to play well and get ready to face that incredible pressure,” Grady said. “If you can handle Kentlake, you can handle anybody at state. I was proud that we never gave up.”

Late in the fourth quarter, the Raiders outscored Kentlake 15-3 to cut the lead to 12 points, but it was too little too late.

“It was a learning experience for us,” said Jefferson senior Kezia Long, who was feeling ill before and during the game. “It’s preparing us for what’s to come down the road. We’ll take this game and learn from our mistakes.”

Jefferson’s two leading scorers, Long and Chelsea Hunt, were held to nine and six points, respectively. Jefferson senior Kim Brown picked up the slack, scoring a season-high 14 points.

“Kim played great,” Grady said. “She needed to step up and she did a great job.”

“We battled hard, but we hurt ourselves more than they hurt us,” Brown said. “No team will be easy from here on out. It was a good pre-game going into state. It was excellent practice for us to step up to the plate, which we did, even though we lost.”

Jefferson finished second in the regular season SPSL South standings. After starting the season with a 7-4 record, the Raiders won their final nine regular-season games. Jefferson, which is 2-2 in post-season play, is now 18-6 overall.

“After we lost to Decatur and Curtis back-to-back in the middle of the season, we thought, ‘Holy smokes, we need to do some re-evaluating here,’ ” Grady said. “Since then, the girls have figured it out.”

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