Kamiakin girls punch ticket to Tacoma (w/ gallery)

By Jack Millikin, Tri-City HeraldFebruary 26, 2012 

RICHLAND — The Kamiakin girls want it all this season.

They want all the fun and fanfare of Saturday's 76-46 3A regional basketball win over Lakes in Richland, which earned the Braves a repeat trip to the 3A state tournament in Tacoma.

Since they're going to be over there anyway, they might as well grab a state title while they're at it.

"If we execute our half-court game as well as our transition game, I don't have any doubts we'll be playing for a state championship," said Kamiakin coach Tammy Hutchison of the team's 23rd consecutive victory without a loss this season.

The Braves (23-0), who finished fifth at the 3A state tournament last season, will play their opening game at the Hardwood Classic on Thursday. The Washington Interscholastic Activities Association will release the brackets today.

Kamiakin got off to a slow start, trailing 4-2 after Lancers' seniors Aubre Mitchell and Anitaka Knight both scored on the low block inside the first 70 seconds. Kamiakin then missed its next five shots from the field, but there wasn't much cause for concern on the Braves' bench.

"This team trusts each other, and we're always communicating," said Kamiakin sophomore guard Sira Toure, who finished with 11 points on 4-of-6 shooting.

After a solid start, Lakes eventually got the message about the Braves' guard Khadidja Toure: Once the all-state senior gets going, there's no stopping her.

With 5:02 left in the first and Kamiakin still trailing 4-2, Khadidja split two defenders in the lane to tie the score at 4. Seconds later, she forced a jump ball and the Braves regained possession. Sira then drained a 3-pointer off an assist from Courtney Nelson on the left wing.

Khadidja got her first steal on the Lancers' inbound and cruised in for an easy layin and a 9-4 Kamiakin lead. She recorded four steals in the first quarter alone and finished with six overall.

Unfortunately for Lakes, the Braves were just getting started. By the time the second-quarter buzzer sounded, Kamiakin led 40-14 and was all but packing its bags for Tacoma.

"It didn't help that we have 15 turnovers in the first half," said Lakes coach David McEachern. "You never go in thinking you're going to lose. We came in to compete. That being said, you definitely can't give a good team opportunities like that."

Khadidja finished with 30 points, five steals and three assists. But one of the things that made her smile the most was seeing her teammates come off the bench late in the game and get a chance to tickle the twine.

"They're so happy when they score," she said with a smile.

Kamiakin was a little green for its first trip to the Tacoma Dome at this time last season. This time, Khadidja believes her team is ready for another postseason run.

"Last year we were definitely inexperienced. Now we're feeling a lot better. Even when we're down, we're better," she said. "We just proved to ourselves that we were meant to be in Tacoma."

Lakes made a nice third-quarter run, outscoring the Braves 15-14 for eight minutes. But Kamiakin picked things back up in the fourth, starting the frame on a 9-0 run to push the lead back up to 63-29.

Sira Toure capped the run with a highlight-reel play, stealing the ball at midcourt before dribbling in and whipping a one-handed pass through a crowded lane to Nelson, who finished it with a reverse layin.

"That was a sick pass," said Nelson, who finished with 19 points, including 7-of-8 from the free throw line.

"We don't know the Seattle teams very well, so we probably went in a little unprepared," she said. "But we never take any team for granted."

Mitchell led the Lancers with 19 points and 10 rebounds.

LAKES -- Aubre Mitchell 19, Soriano 1, Knight 3, Barton 4, Johnson 3, Holland 6, Lowe, Degrafferied 3, Butler 5, Crawford 2, Silverhorn. Totals 15-45 14-19 46.

KAMIAKIN -- Courtney Nelson 19, Roueche, Oord 2, Sira Toure 11, Guice 2, Khadidja Toure 30, Nelson, Schauble, Miller 7, Ellison 2, Hanson 2, Crandall 1. Totals 28-60 14-23 76.

Lakes 9 5 15 17 -- 46

Kamiakin 17 23 14 22 -- 76

Highlights -- Rebounds: L 29 (Mitchell 10), K 39 (Amanda Miller 9); 3-pointers: L 2-12 (JaMesha Holland 2), K 6-14 (C.Nelson 2, K.Toure 2, S. Toure 2); Turnovers: L 27, K 19; Steals: L 7 (Kaitlyn Soriano 2, Holland 2), K 14 (K.Toure 5, S.Toure 3); Tyanna Barton 4 assists, 3 blocks; K.Toure 3 assists.

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