Kamiakin's Toure ready for final challenge

By Craig Craker, Tri-City Herald February 25, 2012 

KENNEWICK -- A year ago, the Kamiakin girls basketball team was embarking on a new adventure through the state tournament.

The Braves were state newbies and it showed early, as they lost in a state regional game before bouncing back, advancing to Tacoma and taking fifth place.

Fast forward a year, and Kamiakin is playing like seasoned veterans with a state championship on their mind.

The undefeated Braves (22-0) play Lakes (20-5) at 6 p.m. today at Richland High in a Class 3A Eastern Washington Regional game. The winner advances to Tacoma, while the loser is eliminated.

"We're just ready," Kamiakin's Khadidja Toure said. "We've been looking at state all year long and I don't feel like we're ready to stop at this game."

Toure is a big reason why the Braves are rolling along undefeated, the Oregon State-signee is averaging 21.2 points per game and will be a key ballhandler against the full-court press that Lakes employs.

Toure is one of six players -- Courtney and Kaylee Nelson, Sira Toure, Amanda Miller and Melanie Oord -- who saw significant minutes last season and should be able to avoid falling to the pressure that comes with the single elimination games.

"Obviously there is always that thing in the back of your, those nerves," Courtney Nelson said, "but I think it gets us ready. We're ready for these good teams. We know the intensity of the games and we just need to come ready to play."

While Kamiakin was rarely challenged during the regular season, the Braves did survive a couple of close calls against Eastmont, including in the District 5/6 tournament title game last weekend. The Wildcats slowed the game down in the first half and used their height advantage to give Kamiakin problems.

But the Braves overcame the different look and have worked hard in the second half of the season to diversify offensively to prepare for this moment.

"We knew that our game was pressing and transition," Kamiakin coach Tammy Hutchison said, "but in the second half of league we really worked on slowing down our game and being able to run an offense.

"It is getting all wrapped up together, where if our press and transition game gets stopped, we'll be able to hang with a halfcourt team."

While Lakes doesn't have a lot of height -- its leading scorer is averaging around 17 per game in the post, but is only 5-foot-9 -- the Lancers are an athletic, scrappy team.

If the game turns into a track meet, though, the Braves should have the advantage and a good shot at returning to Tacoma.

"I think we have more of a maturity about us now," Toure said. "We're so focused on the benefits of going to state that we are just ready to go out and take care of business."

Streak: Lakes has won 12 of last 14. Kamiakin is undefeated in 22 games this season.

Key players: Lakes -- F Aubre Mitchell (16.7), G/F Anitaka Knight (9.2), G A Martin (9.0), G/F Tyanna Barton (8.9). Kamiakin -- G Khadidja Toure (21.2), F Courtney Nelson (15.2), G Sira Toure (11.9).

State appearances: Lakes 7, Kamiakin 13.

Last state appearance: Lakes 2010, Kamiakin 2011.

State trophies: Lakes 3 (fourth 2008; fifth 1991, 1993); Kamiakin 11 (first 1985; second 1996; third 1988, 1992-93; fourth 1987, 1994-95; fifth 1999, 2011; seventh 2011).

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