This time, SK conquers Kentwood

For South Kitsap, Tuesday’s opponent in the semifinal round of the Class 4A West Central/Southwest District Basketball Tournament was as familiar as the position the Wolves find themselves in tonight.

The opponent was old foe Kentwood, which South topped 65-55 at Puyallup High School. The win puts the 23-1 Wolves in the WCD title game for the second year in a row as they meet up with Curtis at 6 p.m. tonight in Puyallup.

“They’re tough, they have some tough kids,” South coach John Callaghan said of Kentwood. “It was a good test for guys, especially there at the end. They came at us and we kind of hung in there and got it done.”

Tuesday’s contest was the fourth between the Conquerors and Wolves in the past two years. South beat Kentwood in the semifinals of the WCD last year but have lost to Kentwood at the state tournament twice in the past two seasons, 65-56 in the 2003 title game and 42-36 in last year’s state semifinal.

Those four games have helped develop a bit of a rivalry and given the teams some history with each other.

“Yeah, more good for them than us,” Callaghan said. “We’ve won the two district games and they’ve won the two big games. But when you’re playing those guys, it’s always going to be a tough game. And I wouldn’t be surprised if we hook up one more time.”

But Tuesday night totally belonged to the Wolves as seniors Josh Monagle and Ryan Sweet combined to score 40 points to keep Kentwood at bay. In fact, South led the entire game except for a brief moment in the third quarter when Kentwood took a 40-38 lead after reeling off 12 straight points.

But the Wolves came back with an 11-5 run of their own and never trailed again.

Monagle ended up with a game-high 24 points while Sweet added 16. The duo has now combined to score 93 points in three games for a 31-point average per contest.

“I think a lot of that is that our perimeter players have done a really good job of getting them the ball in the right places and at the right times,” Callaghan said. “That was definitely true (Tuesday) night.”

Callaghan said the team’s execution against Kentwood’s 1-3-1 zone was nothing less than perfect. So good, in fact, that Kentwood was forced to abandon it and play straight up man — and that’s when the Wolves really took over.

South, which had wrapped up a state berth last week, will be looking for its first-ever WCD title, having lost to Bethel in last year’s championship game.

In Curtis, the Wolves draw not only the team that spent the most time atop the Class 4A basketball poll this year, but also possibly the state’s best player in Isaiah Thomas.

The junior, a 5-foot-9 guard, has scored 102 points in three WCD games, including 39 points against Prairie in Tuesday night’s semifinal, the fourth-best performance in tournament history.

“He’s something, he really is,” Callaghan said. “He can play. We’ll do what we can to slow him down but you can’t forget about the other four guys because they are talented, too.”

While Thomas averages 32 points a game, post Chris Sprinker has scored 11.9 a game for a team that beats its opponents by an average score of 77-56.

The Vikings enter tonight’s game on a 12-game winning streak having lost to Puyallup on Jan. 16, while South comes in on a 17-game win streak that dates back to a Jan. 4 loss to Gig Harbor.

The winner of tonight’s game enters next week’s state tournament as the district’s top seed while the loser gets the No. 2 seed. The state tourney begins Wednesday at the Tacoma Dome.

South Kitsap 66, Kentwood 55

Kentwood — Jeremy Green, Cody Thueringer 12, Curron Singleton 4, Toussaint Tyler 22, Austin Boyce 15, Mark Aurich, Gregory Baker 2, Kyle Pearson.

South Kitsap — Conner Gehring 2, Tippy Burk 7, LP Neloms 9, Josh Monagle 24, Ryan Sweet 16, Evan Atwater 6, Tysaiah Curry 2, Joe Pisa.

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