We’re winding down on the regular season, and there’s lots of jockeying going on for playoff positions.
It’s going to be an interesting race to the finish in several of the local leagues, and I’ll do my best to catch you up on everything in the next edition of Post-Ups.
But this week, my focus is on how three teams in particular – Lake Stevens, Jackson and Kentwood – are preparing for a stretch run.
Plus I’ll have mentions of the key games over the past few days, top scorers and a look ahead to Friday’s big showdowns.
Pahukoa returns at the right time for Lake Stevens
Who knew a little finger could cause such big problems?
Brooke Pahukoa found out just how big when she dislocated the pinky finger on her right hand trying to break a fall during the third quarter of the Vikings’ nonleague game against Lewis and Clark of Spokane back on Dec. 29.
The finger was sticking out at a 90-degree angle, according to coach Randy Edens. And just how tough is Pahukoa? She had the finger popped back in place and “buddy taped” to her ring finger, then returned to lead the Vikings to a 67-62 victory.
“She was a super-star in the fourth quarter,” Edens said, noting she had some key free throws and a pair of “monster” rebounds.
But the finger continued to swell and the bruising deepened. Pahukoa was held out of a game against Jackson the following week. S-rays showed she had a bone fragment between a tendon and knuckle and the doctor recommended that Pahukoa give it some time to heal.
“It’s been more frustrating for her than anything else,” Edens said.
Especially when she had to watch her team not only lose to Jackson, 62-48, but later to Lynnwood, 59-48, falling to 4-4 in WesCo 4A North play.
But the Vikings won the following two games – including what Edens called a “swing game” against Edmonds-Woodway – and Pahukoa was cleared in time for Wednesday’s showdown with Snohomish, responsible for an earlier 46-43 loss.
The senior leader, who has signed with Boise State along with twin Brittney, helped Lake Stevens put together a complete victory, 52-24.
“It was probably the best we’ve played all year,” Edens said. “Having Brooke gave everybody a little boost. They could all be relaxed and more confident.”
He said Pahukoa played about 22-24 minutes. She scored only six points, going 3-for-8 from the field, but also contributed a “handful” of rebounds and a couple of steals, according to Edens.
“It was like her opening night all over again,” he said. “She had a little bit of jitters.”
Edens said there could be a silver lining in all of this as Pahukoa got more rest than she’s accustomed to.
“It may be a bit of a blessing, because at this time of year she’s usually pretty beat up,” the coach said.
Plus, other players have benefitted from extra playing time.
“We’ve just asked our other kids to rise up for the most part,” Edens said.
Senior Mallory Gibson has done a nice job filling in defensively, according to the coach, although she is just 5-foot-3 compared to the 5-9 Pahukoa, who was named to the All-State second team as a junior last year.
The Vikings have missed the 20 points Pahukoa was averaging before the injury, along with everything else she brings to the floor – especially in close games.
“Those are the times you’re going to lean on your best player to get a basket or a big rebound,” Edens said.
Lake Stevens started the season ranked No. 3 in the state and expected to make a run toward the Tacoma Dome after just missing last season, losing to eventual-champion Skyview of Vancouver in the regional round.
That goal hasn’t changed for the Vikings. No. 7 Arlington (15-2, 10-1) all but has a lock on the North Division title, but Lake Stevens (11-6, 7-4) moved into second place with the win over Snohomish (12-6, 7-5).
“If we finish second and get to host a first-round playoff game, I like our chances,” Edens said.
The Vikings get another shot against Arlington on Friday.
Even without Kingma, Jackson can still make a run
I’ve seen Jackson twice this season – once with Kelli Kingma, and once without.
No doubt, the UW-commit makes a difference for the Timberwolves. But even without her – which they will be for the rest of the season due to her knee injury – they are a dangerous team, one capable of making a deep playoff run.
Jackson and Kentwood played one of the best quarters of girls basketball I’ve seen in awhile to open their game Monday in the King Showcase, with KW leading 18-17 at the end of it. I’ve watched a lot of games where teams don’t combine for 35 points in a half, let alone a quarter.
Unfortunately, the T-Wolves couldn’t keep up the pace in the second period as they were outscored 14-4 and wound up losing 61-43. It was their third loss in four games.
Afterward, coach Jeannie Boyer did her best to buoy her players and keep their confidence up. Even without Kingma, a dynamic three-point shooter, they can be successful, if everyone does their part.
“We lost a big piece of the puzzle,” Boyer told them. “You all need to step up, but I’m not asking you to be her.”
In one sense, the Kentwood game epitomized the Timberwolves’ recent play. Sometimes, they are really good. Other times, they are not so good.
“Without Kelli, we’re really streaky right now,” Boyer later told me. “We’re working to find consistency. We have moments where we play very well. Now it’s just putting together the complete game so we can compete against these top teams.”
The good news about Kingma, who is just a junior, is that the injury to her left knee was not too severe – a partial meniscus radial tear. She had surgery Dec. 27 and confirmed Monday she will not attempt to return this season.
“I can’t wait to hopefully get healthy soon and be ready for next year,” she said. “With so many injuries I’ve had in the past, we want to get healthy and just have a good senior year with the team.”
Last season, Kingma suffered a strained ACL and coming into this season she missed the first couple weeks of practice with a Grade 3 ankle sprain. And it was while she was rehabbing the ankle, Kingma said, that she suffered the knee injury.
She will sit on the bench for the rest of the season and be the team’s biggest cheerleader – which is painful in itself.
“It’s definitely very hard just to sit and watch when I would do anything to be able to play,” she said. “But I love being able to cheer my teammates on….It’s just fun watching my teammates step up and play big roles.”
The Timberwolves bounced back from the Monday loss to beat Cascade last night, 57-25, behind the 18 points of Faithaleen Lopez-Flores. She has been one of those stepping up in Kingma’s absence, averaging just under 12 per game. Sierra Anderson is another key player with a team-best average of 13.7.
Jackson is now 10-7 on the season, 9-3 in the WesCo 4A South, just behind fourth-ranked Lynnwood (16-1, 11-1).
Kentwood hopes to (finally) get back to the Tacoma Dome
One game short – that’s how the Kentwood Conquerors have ended the past two seasons. One game away from reaching the Tacoma Dome.
They were regulars from 2006-2010, winning the title in 2009. But they’ve lost in the regional round the past two years.
Junior Sarah Toeaina is determined to end the mini-drought – “more than ever,” she said – and the Conquerors have been playing some awfully good basketball lately.
“I feel like we’re putting all of the pieces together, slowly but surely,” said Toeaina, who averages just under 17 points per game. “We’re playing more team ball now. We keep improving game by game.”
Coach Lisa Ashley echoed that sentiment after the win over Jackson.
“We’re really starting to come together and play as a team,” she said.
Kentwood started slowly this season at 3-2 – but the losses were to a healthy Lake Stevens (then ranked No. 3) and top-ranked Mount Rainier.
Toeaina missed the MR game, a 68-41 drubbing, with a shoulder injury.
The Conks then won seven straight before losing a heart-breaker to Mount Rainier last week, 63-61. But that game added to their confidence.
“Staying that close with them gave us a boost,” Toeaina said.
Ashley agreed, noting some players had doubts early in the season.
“Going into that Lake Stevens game, I don’t know if the girls actually believed at that time that they could play that caliber of ball,” the coach said. “Then we had some injuries, some illnesses, and other players had to step up. And now we’re starting to get all of the pieces together and play more as a team, and we’re building that confidence as well.”
They were sky-high after the win over Jackson Monday, but then suffered a 71-59 setback against Auburn Riverside on Tuesday, despite Toeaina’s 30-point effort. It was their third game in four days. Riverside, which lost 38-36 last time around, is another team on the rise.
Kentwood has multiple weapons. Jenny Johnson, Kate Kramer and Kylie Ashlee (the coach’s daughter) all average around 10 a game. The team would be even stronger with Alycha DeLong, who started as a sophomore last year. But DeLong suffered a knee injury over the summer that has forced her to miss the season.
In case you missed it…
There were two dynamic girls games on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. I got to see Mount Rainier take on an outstanding Oregon City team, ultimately losing 54-52 in overtime. Several people commented to me about how they thought it was one of the best girls games they’d seen in a while.
I agree, in part. From an excitement standpoint, sure. And there was more talent out on the court than you generally find at one time – Oregon City has three players with Division I scholarships and at least one other Division II commit. Mount Rainier has possibly Washington’s top player in junior Brittany McPhee, who undoubtedly will play Division I somewhere.
I was troubled by Mount Rainier’s 22 turnovers – 10 by the normally steady Jordan McPhee. That was explained in part by the fact Jordan was suffering from the flu and clearly was not herself. She had to run to the bathroom at the end of regulation to vomit and finished the game on the bench.
At times, the Rams seemed to panic, making silly passes. But Oregon City can do that to you and the Pioneers were forced into 16 turnovers themselves.
Troubling also was OC’s miserable 2-for-27 shooting from three-point range, including 0-for-13 in the second half and overtime. They are generally a much better shooting team than that and the game wouldn’t have been close if they shot even close to normal.
MR’s comeback was amazing, thanks to Brittany McPhee, who erased a nine-point deficit in the final 2 ½ minutes of regulation by herself – including two clutch free throws to tie it with 3.2 seconds on the clock, giving her 30 for the game.
Going into OT, Brittany and Jordan had accounted for 42 of MR’s 46 points – also a little troubling. Emily Fiso had the other four. But in the extra period, Aqueelah Williams and Amber Guillot both nailed clutch threes, like they’ve done in other games. Obviously, the Rams will need those other players to step up if they hope to live up to that No. 1 ranking at state.
And if you missed it, you can read my story here.
How I wish I could have been at SPU for that showdown between No. 1 Wilson and No. 3 Cleveland. Kudos to the Eagles, who notched a 60-53 victory. You can read Jayson Jenks’ account here.
Will that be enough to vault Cleveland to No. 1 in next week’s rankings? You’ll have to check back on Monday to find out. Remember, Prairie is currently No. 2 (and ranked No. 1 by the Associated Press and TNT).
I want to make sure you didn’t miss this score from Tuesday: Cedarcrest 50, Archbishop Murphy 49. Susan Kenney hit the game-winner with three seconds left to give the Red Wolves what is believed to be their first-ever win over the Wildcats. ATM won 52-50 earlier in the season and was unbeaten in Cascade Conference play, sitting at No. 6 in the 2A rankings with Cedarcrest at No. 7.
And the game that caught my eye Wednesday: Issaquah 49, Woodinville 48. The Falcons (14-3, 8-3 KingCo 4A Crest Division) came in ranked No. 5 and had won 9 in a row. Issaquah (12-4, 8-3) has been a bit up and down, but is obviously dangerous. The Eagles knocked off Inglemoor (then No. 4 and now No. 9) not long ago – just after losing to Roosevelt.
This one nearly got away from them as they led 42-27 going into the final quarter before being outscored 21-7. Three Issaquah players finished in double figures (Mandie Hill with 16, Mackenzie Wieburg with 12 and Quincey Gibson with 10).
And another game of note last night: streaking Meadowdale handed Shorewood just its second WesCo 3A South loss of the season, 51-46. The Mavs (12-5, 7-3) have won eight of their past nine. Shorewood (13-4, 8-2) was on a six-game win streak and looking to clinch the division title.
The drive to 25
Here are some local players who scored 25 points or more in games over the past week (apologies to any I might have missed):
Kennedy Hobert, White River – went off for a career-high 39 against Franklin Pierce (a 76-39 victory) on Tuesday.
Raven Benton, Federal Way – put in 36 Saturday as the No. 10 Eagles avenged an earlier loss to Bethel, 62-49, and had 25 in the Thursday game with Curtis (a 60-49 win).
Shantell Jackson, Auburn Riverside – poured in 34 to lead Auburn Riverside past Kentwood Tuesday, 71-59.
Annie Leete, Oak Harbor – logged 32 (with EIGHT three-pointers), but didn’t get enough help in a 65-63 loss to Everett.
Brittany McPhee, Mount Rainier – enjoyed a pair of 30-point outings, first against Kentridge (a 48-39 win last Thursday) and then as mentioned against Oregon City Monday.
Sarah Toeaina, Kentwood – hit 30 in the Tuesday loss to Auburn Riverside.
Nneka Nnadi, Spanaway Lake – canned 29 last Thursday, but the Sentinels lost 62-57 to Beamer.
Olivia Ho, Tribal Muckleshoot – was good for 26 in Friday’s 38-27 victory over Evergreen Lutheran.
Taylor Farris, Renton – another 26 to lead the No. 9 Indians past Hazen Friday, 65-22.
Katia Brown, Tulalip Heritage – logged two 26-point games, first in a 68-23 romp past Highland Christrian Prep Monday, then in a tough, 51-50 loss to Tahola Wednesday.
Kendall Foster, Auburn Riverside – collected 25 in Auburn Riverside’s 62-38 win over Jefferson.
There are so many intriguing games on Friday, I don’t can’t decide which one I’m gong to cover.
Right now, it’s between Puyallup-Federal Way and Auburn Riverside-Mount Rainier.
You can read why below and also have a look at some of the big ones in the Friday lineup:
Puyallup at Federal Way, 7 p.m. – The eighth-ranked Vikings (16-1, 11-1) owe their only loss to Beamer (a team they play again next Tuesday) and are in position to win the SPSL 4A South title. They beat the Eagles 74-58 back on Dec. 18, despite Raven Benton’s 36 points. Federal Way (16-2, 12-2) jumped in the rankings at No. 10 this week and have won nine in a row since that loss to Puyallup.
Auburn Riverside at Mount Rainier, 7:30 p.m. – It’s been a grueling 11 days for the top-ranked Rams (17-1, 14-0 SPSL 4A North) as they’ll be playing their sixth game during that span. How will they bounce back from that OT loss on Monday? AR (12-4, 10-2) lost 70-55 the first time around (Dec. 18) as the McPhees combined for 53 points. The Ravens didn’t have Kendall Foster (knee) at the time, and she makes a difference. As noted earlier, they knocked off Kentwood Tuesday.
Issaquah at Skyline, 6 p.m. – The Spartans (14-4, 10-2 KingCo 4A Crown Division) fell out of the rankings after last week’s loss to Inglemoor. Issaquah (12-4, 8-3) is on a five-game win streak and looks to avenge a 63-50 loss from Dec. 14.
Woodinville at Eastlake, 6:30 p.m. – Eastlake’s overall 9-7 record might not be impressive, but the Wolves are 8-2 in the KingCo 4A Crest Division, tied with Inglemoor – a game ahead of Woodinville. They beat the Falcons the first time around, 54-44 on Dec. 14. Woodinville was without McKenzie Campbell in that one.
Lynnwood at Jackson, 7:15 p.m. – The Royals (16-1, 11-1) can clinch the No. 1 seed in the WesCo South with a victory.
Arlington at Lake Stevens, 7:15 p.m. – I talked about this one earlier. It will be interesting to see how quickly Pahukoa gets back up to speed.
Mercer Island at Bellevue, 6:30 p.m. – The sixth-ranked Wolverines (16-1, 10-1) can sew up at least a share of the KingCo 3A/2A title with a victory. But MI (14-3, 9-2) has been on a roll, winning six straight since the 70-54 loss to Bellevue on Jan. 4.
Meadowdale at Glacier Peak, 7:15 p.m. – I mentioned earlier how well the Mavs are playing, and GP (12-5, 7-3) can be a handful, too. Both are just a half-game behind Shorewood. Meadowdale won 49-46 at home on Dec. 14.
One Saturday game of note: Eastlake at Inglemoor, 6:30 p.m.