Sports

BOYS BASKETBALL: KW, KR to play in loser-out district game Tuesday at Auburn High

A state berth was on the line Friday night, but the Kentwood High boys basketball team was nowhere to be found.

Fortunately for the Conquerors, a state ticket can still be had.

It’s something Decatur doesn’t have to worry about. Behind 17 points from Jordan McCloud and 16 more from Jerron Smith, the Gators knocked off the Conquerors 60-44 in a winner-to-state West Central District III game at Auburn High.

“We didn’t come to play,” Kentwood star Josh Smith said flatly. “I think we overlooked them … they played harder than us.”

Kentwood (14-10) throttled Decatur (16-9) last week in the South Puget Sound League tournament, 62-42. Friday night, however, the Gators turned the tables. And in doing so, earned their fourth straight state trip. Decatur will play Lincoln at 6 p.m. on Tuesday at the ShoWare Center in a district semifinal game. The loss drops Kentwood into the loser bracket, where the Conquerors will play Kentridge on Tuesday (8 p.m., Auburn High).

The loss to Decatur was tough for the Conquerors to swallow, especially when considering they’ve fallen a game short of the state tournament in each of the last two years – both defeats coming at Auburn High.

“I don’t think it’s the court, it’s our energy and our focus and we need to get better at that,” said Kentwood coach Michael Angelidis. “They outhustled us and outplayed us.”

The Gators got off to a quick start, taking a 12-2 lead on two buckets from McLoud and one apiece from Smith, Dom Hunter and Terrell Williams.

Meanwhile, the Conquerors were ice cold early. Kentwood didn’t get on the board until Mikell Everette converted a layup with 4:45 remaining in the first quarter. Kentwood did finish the quarter on a 7-0 run, capped with a lefty runner off glass by guard Tre Tyler.

Decatur went into halftime clinging to a 24-22 lead and was able to keep Kentwood at an arm’s length until moments into the third quarter, when the Conquerors went ahead 26-25 on an easy bucket down low from Smith.

Jason Boyce followed with a putback on an offensive rebound, giving the Conquerors a 28-25 advantage midway through the third.

Kentwood, however, was unable to build on the lead. The Conquerors were unable to find a groove from the outside all night and struggled to get Smith the ball in the paint against Decatur’s zone defense.

The Conquerors connected on just 2 of their 20 3-point attempts. Things were just as difficult for the Conquerors at the free-throw line, where they converted just 4 of 16 attempts.

“I’m pretty frustrated,” said Smith, who scored a team-high 14 points, but managed just 2 of 12 at the line. “It’s the same thing, a different year for me. It’s the third year we’ve been in this situation (to advance to state) against a team I think we should have beaten.”

Smith wasn’t alone among frustrated Conquerors.

“We didn’t have any energy,” said Tyler, who scored 11 points. “We fought back, took a lead in the second half, but they came with more energy than we did throughout the whole game.”

Particularly in the final eight minutes, when the Gators put the game away. Decatur went on a 9-2 run to open the fourth, pushing a 36-32 lead to 45-34 with 4:38 to play. The Conquerors didn’t get any closer than nine points the rest of the night.

McCloud supplied the hot hand for the Gators in the fourth, scoring eight of his 17 points. Meanwhile, Decatur’s Smith converted 6 of 8 from the line down the stretch, helping the Gators seal the state berth.

Kentwood came into the game having won 8 of its last 9.

ELSEWHERE:

Kentridge 83, Bethel 59: Dylan Zylstra scored a season-high 27 points, leading the Chargers (14-9) past the Braves in a loser-out district game. Gary Bell added 26 points for the Chargers while Craig Rasmussen and Brendan Westendorf chipped in 10 apiece.

The win moves the Chargers into a loser-out showdown against Kentwood (8 p.m., Auburn High) Tuesday night. Kentridge has split the season series with Kentwood.

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