Kamiakin boys basketball season comes to unhappy ending

By Jack Millikin, Tri-City HeraldMarch 4, 2012 

TACOMA -- There were plenty of excuses the Kamiakin boys basketball team could have made after a 63-50 loss to University in the third-place game Saturday at the Class 3A state tournament.

The Braves wanted no part of them.

"We just don't do that," said Kamiakin coach Brian Meneely, who watched his team secure back-to-back trophy finishes for the first time since the Braves did it from 1992-95.

"What's good is that we did go out and compete," he said. "We didn't lose our team identity, and that speaks volumes about this group."

University fancied itself a team of destiny. The Titans had not been to state since 1985, and they were eager to make the most of the chance.

After leaning heavily on Brett Bailey in a semifinal loss to Rainier Beach the night before, University was careful to spread the wealth against Kamiakin. Four players scored in double figures, and three of them -- Bailey, Conner Johnson and Jared Miller -- had 13 apiece to lead the Titans.

"We had a few advantages," said Bailey, named to the all-tournament team. "Our assignment was to go score. We knew where to attack and the easiest way to do it."

University's scoring distribution started early, as five players contributed to a 10-2 run to begin the game.

But Zach En'Wezoh, who showed no ill effects from an acute sprained ankle Friday, scored six consecutive points for Kamiakin to cap an 9-3 run that pulled the Braves within 13-11 with 2:07 left.

"Zach stepped up big," Kamiakin senior Justin Pedley said. "That was one of the best games I've ever seen him play."

En'Wezoh finished with 15 points and 10 rebounds to lead both teams. Pedley had eight points and four rebounds. Those two drew the heaviest attention from University defenders.

That meant more would be expected from the Braves' guards, which did not worry Meneely. But he knew they needed good shots to hit them.

"It's Day 3 of the tournament. Whoever gets the easiest shots wins," Meneely said. "When (University) got going in transition, we just weren't able to get any second-chance points."

Another problem: The shots Kamiakin got just weren't falling. The Braves entered Saturday as the top-shooting team in two tournament games, but they hit just 35.2 percent (19-for-54) on the final day.

Joe Hunt gave the team a spark off the bench at times, drawing two charging calls and nailing a 3-pointer in the second half. But Hunt admitted his team's down-to-the-wire semifinal loss to Seattle Prep on Friday night took its toll.

"We had too many mental breakdowns," Hunt said. "There were a couple of inbounds plays where we left a shooter open in the corner, and he got the shot off both times."

Pedley scored on a putback and En'Wezoh followed with a bucket inside off a dish from Pedley to cut the Titans' lead to 34-29 with 5:14 left in the third quarter. But Johnson drove the right baseline on U-Hi's next possession, converted a tough layup and got the foul to push the lead back to eight points.

That started an 11-3 run from which the Braves could not recover.

"They came out ready, and we had no sense of purpose," said En'Wezoh, the Columbia University-bound senior who drew no pleasure from a strong performance in his final high school game. "I'll never be proud of the way I play, even if I drop 30. If we win, I'll be proud, but I'll never be proud after a loss."

UNIVERSITY -- Jared Miller 13, Zac Bruce 11, Brett Bailey 13, Conner Johnson 13, Martin 5, Smith 5, McDonald 3, Flynn, Chase, Carrieres, Moore. Totals 22-52 12-18 63.

KAMIAKIN -- Williams 4, Wilmoth 3, Clyde 8, Pedley 8, Zach En'Wezoh 15, Hunt 5, Quinn 2, Shoop 3, Crandall 2, Wagar, Robertson, Fowler. 19-54 7-12 50.

University 16 18 13 16 -- 63

Kamiakin 14 11 11 14 -- 50

3-point goals -- U 7-21 (Miller 3, Cojo Smith, Zane McDonald, Bailey, Zech Martin), K 5-20 (Cooper Clyde 2, Cody Wilmoth, Max Shoop, Joe Hunt). Rebounds -- U 40 (McDonald 8), K 31 (En'Wezoh 10). Turnovers -- U 9, K 9. Assists -- U 10 (Zach Bruce 4), K 13 (Clyde 4). Steals -- U 7 (Bruce 3), K 2 (Clyde, Wilmoth. Total fouls -- U 15, K 16. Fouled out -- K, En'Wezoh.

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