By Noah Genson
NORTH MUSKEGON – Kent City girl’s basketball coach Scott Carlson said it would take a tough defensive effort to avenge last year’s district final loss to Western Michigan Christian, and that’s what his players provided.
The Eagles held WMC All-State candidate Aubrey Goorman to eight points and cruised to a 56-39 victory in the Class C district championship game at North Muskegon High School on Friday.
Kent City, now 20-3 on the season, advances to regionals at Morley-Stanwood High School on Tuesday.
“We put a little pressure on them to see if they could handle it,” said Carlson, whose team was upset by the Warriors in last year’s district final. “Our girls really worked hard in that press.
“We really wanted to focus on their two bigs (Goorman and Anna Sytsema), and I thought we came out solid on both ends of the floor. It was nice to avenge the loss, because last year stung.”
Western Michigan Christian, the Lakes 8 Conference champion, ended the season with an 18-4 record.
The Eagles started the game off in a tight man-to-man press and it was effective.
The first points of the game weren’t scored until two minutes in, on a layup by WMC’s Taylor Folkema, giving the Warriors a 2-0 lead.
But the tough defense gave Kent City’s offense time to wake up, and when it did, the Eagles took control.
Kent City collected two quick threes from Jenna Harrison to grab a 6-2 lead, and the Eagles never trailed after that.
The Eagles led 11-8 after one quarter, then really put down the defensive clamps in the second, going on a 16-3 run that featured a pair of triples.
The Warriors ended the first half with an 8-2 spurt, but Kent City still went to the locker room with a commanding 30-19 edge.
That Eagle pressure didn’t go away in the second half. They forced two quick turnovers, leading to two easy buckets to pad their lead.
At the four-minute mark in the quarter, the Eagles decided to go into stall-mode – which Carlson said illustrated the confidence he has in his guards.
“We had a big enough lead, and we have good enough ball handlers to run the clock out if we needed to,” the coach said. “That forced them to come out and guard us, which is what we wanted.”
Along with the stalling, the Eagles’ stifling defense allowed WMC just two buckets in the quarter, and they took a comfortable 42-23 lead into the fourth.
The fourth quarter had much more offense than the third, particularly from Kent City’s Zara Weber, who scored 12 of her 14 points in the final frame, including six of seven free throws.
Freshman guard Jenna Harrison paced Kent City with 18 points. Kenzie Bowers joined Weber and Harrison as the three double-digit scorers for the winner, finishing with 12 points.
Sytsema led the Warriors in scoring with 12 points while Meghan Heiss and Goorman each finished with eight.