Kennewick hopes to bounce U-Hi, reach state

By Jack Millikin, Tri-City Herald February 24, 2012 

KENNEWICK -- As the Kennewick boys basketball team practiced at the Lions Den on Wednesday afternoon, the scoreboard remained untouched from the Lions' 89-84 home victory over Shadle Park on Tuesday.

"We usually leave it up from the night before so we can see everything," said Kennewick senior guard Bryce Leavitt, the CBBN 3A Player of the Year. "Every time we've played here, we've won, so fortunately it's a good reminder of what happened."

The scoreboard reminded Lions coach Bradyn Leyde of something else.

"It reminds us that we gave up 33 points to (Shadle Park guard) Brett Boese," he said semi-seriously, knowing that defense will be a critical part of the team's matchup today against third-ranked University at 6 p.m. at Art Dawald Gym in Richland.

The Titans (18-4) are legitimate contenders for the 3A state championship after finishing second in the Greater Spokane League.

Two of their losses came to Central Valley, ranked third among 4A schools, and they held their opponents under 50 points in 14 of 22 games.

Plus, University is loaded with athleticism and scoring punch. Their leading scorer, 6-foot-5 junior guard Brett Bailey, committed to the University of San Diego before last season, and 6-5 forward Conner Johnson will be a walk-on quarterback for Washington State next fall. One of their biggest weapons is the multi-talented Zech Martin, another 6-5 forward averaging more than 13 points and 6 rebounds a game.

"We've got to do a good job on Zech Martin inside and outside. He's a complete player," said Leyde, the CBBN 3A Coach of the Year. "Then we have to contain Bailey."

The Lions were the breakout team of the CBBN 3A this year, finishing just one game behind top-ranked Kamiakin and barely losing the district title game to the Braves 59-58.

But the district title loss didn't crush Kennewick's spirit. If anything, the Lions are more confident than ever after taking down Shadle Park.

"We've played some high-ranked teams (namely top-ranked Kamiakin) and played well. We feel we can play well with anyone," said senior guard Reggie Clinton, an all-CBBN 3A defensive team selection for the second consecutive year.

"Our team has clutch players. We can step out of roles and make big plays when we need to."

While Leavitt and Boese were battling it out point-for-point, the Lions pulled ahead thanks to the play of guards Brandon Pocasangre and Luiz Santiago, who scored 15 points apiece.

Kennewick also could benefit from playing at Art Dawald Gym, which is just 11 miles from home.

"Our guys play a lot of summer league games there. There's a familiarity to it," Leyde said. "(University) plays most of its games inside the Spokane and Coeur d'Alene area. They have to come down for a road trip."

Streak: Kennewick -- won 11 of last 12, University -- won 11 of last 12.

Key players: Kennewick -- G Bryce Leavitt (19.6), G Reggie Clinton (15.3), P Domach Domach (10.7), G Luiz Santiago (9.5). University -- G Brett Bailey (16.8), F Zech Martin (13.7), G Jared Miller (9.1).

State appearances: Kennewick 2, University 5.

Last state appearance: Kennewick 1989, University 1985.

State trophies: Kennewick none, University 5 (third in 1969, 1975, 1985; fourth in 1984; sixth in 1980).

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