Would-be Wolf leads Kennedy to state title

She once was viewed as someone who could help get South Kitsap’s girls basketball team back to the state tournament.

But instead of leading the Wolves, sophomore Alli Madison capped her season by scoring five points as Kennedy finished a perfect season with a 50-43 win Saturday against Shadle Park of Spokane in the Class 3A title game.

“It still hasn’t really hit me,” Madison said. “To receive that trophy ... I still can’t believe it. We’ve been treated like celebrities at school.”

Madison, a 5-foot-8 guard, played alongside Kelsey Callaghan at Marcus Whitman Junior High through eighth grade. But Madison, who averaged 8.6 points per game as a reserve this season, felt she could make an impact as a freshman.

Freshman aren’t eligible to play at South Kitsap High School unless the local junior highs don’t offer a sport, such as boys and girls tennis. But Kennedy, a private four-year high school, doesn’t have those restrictions.

“That was one of the aspects,” said Madison, whose mother, Marianne also attended Kennedy. She added that her Catholic faith also played a role in her decision.

Madison played soccer at Marcus, but decided to forego that sport to focus solely on basketball when she arrived at Kennedy. As a freshmen, she averaged 6.2 points per game as the Lancers went 24-3 and finished second at state.

It wasn’t always easy, though.

Madison still lived with her family in Port Orchard, which meant she took the Southworth Ferry to West Seattle and then rode a bus to Kennedy, which is located in Burien. That meant getting up at 5 a.m. most days. The family since has put its home up for sale and now lives in West Seattle.

“With homework and basketball, it was a lot,” Madison said. “It was brutal.”

But not enough to persuade her to play at South, even as longtime friend Callaghan helped guide the Wolves to their first Class 4A state appearance since 2000 earlier this month.

“I thought about it and pictured what it would’ve been like to play at South,” said Madison, adding that she lived in Port Orchard for four years. “I miss them, but I like it here.”

Madison said her father, Mark, played basketball at South Bend High School and later at Central Washington University. He helped Madison get involved with organized basketball when she was in first grade and has continued to help her develop skills since then.

“I don’t know if I would be where I am without my dad,” she said. “He’s my core; my rock.”

Kennedy coach Tom Mummert hopes Madison develops into a solid starter next season. The Lancers graduate five seniors and he was unequivocal when asked if he expects Madison in the starting lineup.

“Oh yeah,” he said. “Unless we get some phenomenal ballplayers in as freshmen. I couldn’t be more happy with her progress.”

Mummert said he was pleased with how much work Madison put in during the summer.

Both coach and player agree that Madison needs to improve her ball-handling to continue her progression.

“She’s got a great step-back jumper and she can knock down the 3-pointer,” he said. “She can go to the hoop. She just needs a little work on her ball handling.”

Madison said she’s ready to take on that challenge and become a starter. After all, she’s having so much fun playing that she hopes to continue at the next level after graduating in 2011.

“I’ve been around it all the time,” she said. “It’s basically my favorite thing to do.”

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