Girls basketball wrap: Huerta, Kentwood roll over Federal Way, 60-58, in SPSL North showdown

Kentwood junior Liz Mills goes up for a shot over Federal Way junior Talia Walton during Tuesday
Kentwood junior Liz Mills goes up for a shot over Federal Way junior Talia Walton during Tuesday's 60-58 Conqueror win in Federal Way. The loss dropped the Eagles to 0-2 in the SPSL North.
— image credit: Casey Olson/The Mirror

The Kentwood Conquerors knew they would get the Federal Way Eagles' best shot Tuesday night. The fifth-ranked Eagles were reeling after getting torched by Auburn Riverside in their South Puget Sound League North Division opener last week.

But it was Kentwood junior Kylie Huerta that had the last shot inside a loud Federal Way High School gym Tuesday in a pivotal SPSL North battle.

The Conqueror junior dropped a runner in the middle of the lane over 6-foot-1 Jaleecia Roland with 6.2 seconds remaining to give Kentwood a 60-58 win.

The victory keeps the top-ranked Conquerors unbeaten (4-0) and drops Federal Way, the consensus preseason No. 1-ranked team in the state, to 0-2 in the SPSL North Division and 2-2 overall.

It was Huerta who was the story against the ultra-talented Eagles Tuesday night.

The 5-foot guard, who finished with a game-high 27 points, proved to be the best player on the court all night long and there was little doubt who would be taking the decisive shot for Kentwood with the game tied at 58-58.

"We drew up how to get the ball in bounds to her in the backcourt," first-year Kentwood coach Dean Montzingo said. "But once she got into the front court it was all her. She is savvy enough to go shoot it."

"She makes shots," Federal Way head coach Danny Graham said about Huerta. "We knew that coming in. You just have to give her credit."

Federal Way had a chance for the tying or winning basket after getting the ball back with 4.0 seconds remaining. But sophomore guard Darah Huertas-Vining couldn't get off a shot before the final buzzer sounded.

Things don't get any easier for the Conquerors. Kentwood has another huge road test Thursday night when they travel to third-ranked and unbeaten Auburn Riverside.

Things couldn't have started better for the Eagles Tuesday night. Federal Way's ball-hawking, full-court defense forced the usually sure-handed Conquerors, led by Huerta, into eight first-quarter turnovers, including five in the first three minutes.

The Kentwood miscues and early post play of Eagle junior TyShana Burgess, allowed the Eagles to run out to a 13-2 lead midway through the first quarter and a 17-8 lead after the first eight minutes of play. Burgess, Federal Way's leading scorer a season ago, ended the period with 10 points.

"We knew they were going to play a good game," Montzingo said. "This is a hostile place and we knew that they didn't want to start 0-2 in league. We just needed to survive the first four minutes of the game. That was going to give us the best shot to win."

And that's exactly what Kentwood did.

The Conquerors cut the Federal Way lead to just two at halftime, 29-27, thanks to nine second-quarter points from Huerta and a costly technical foul on Graham. The technical, which came with the Eagles leading 19-13, led to four Huerta free throws. All told, Kentwood made 11 of 16 free throws during the second quarter, including 7 of 8 by Huerta.

The third quarter was back and forth. A 7-0 run by the Conquerors early in the second half gave Kentwood their first lead of the game, 36-31. But the Eagles responded with an 11-0 run of their own to take the lead back, 42-36, before the Conks cut the Federal Way lead to 46-44 entering the final eight minutes.

The fourth quarter turned into pretty much a free-throw shooting contest for Kentwood. The Conquerors finished 8 of 10 from the line during the quarter.

Kentwood also got a huge fourth quarter from junior Liz Mills. The forward tallied eight of her 15 points during the quarter, including seven consecutive during a two-minute stretch which gave Kentwood a 53-48 lead with 3:01 left.

The Eagles fought back thanks to seven fourth-quarter points from Huertas-Vining. The sophomore point guard hit two clutch free throws with 19.9 seconds left to tie the game at 58-58, setting up Huerta's game winner.

Huertas-Vining finished with 12 points for Federal Way, 6-foot Burgess tallied 14 and 6-1 Talia Walton ended up with 12. Both Burgess and Walton fouled out during the decisive fourth quarter.

"Their post players are really good and we rebounded well and that was huge," Montzingo said. "This team has a lot of heart."

In total, Kentwood hit 24 of 34 shots from the free-throw line, compared to just 9 of 12 for the Eagles.

In other action:

Jefferson 59, Kent-Meridian 51

The Raiders (3-1 overall, 2-0 in SPSL North) remained unbeaten in league play with the win over Kent-Meridian on the road Tuesday night.

Jefferson got 22 points from senior guard Hannah Kiyohara and 16 from senior forward Unique Taufa'asau. The Raiders had to withstand a fourth-quarter comeback by the Royals and their talented guard Briana Shannon. Kent-Meridian outscored Jefferson 24-13 during the fourth quarter after leading by 19 points entering the final period. Shannon, the leading scorer in the SPSL North a season ago, finished with 35 points.

Rogers 61, Decatur 42

The Gators fell to 0-2 in the SPSL South with the 19-point loss to the Rogers Rams Tuesday in Puyallup. Decatur hung with the unbeaten Rams during the first quarter of play, trailing only 14-11. But Rogers outscored the Gators 19-10 during the second quarter to take control of the game.

Decatur was led by the 13 points of A'yesia Rogers and Alexis Cole chipped in 10 points.

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