After seven losses in a row and a 1-9 start in the Mid-Columbia Conference, the Kennewick boys basketball team was desperate for an opportunity to turn the corner.
It came Tuesday night against the fifth-ranked Kamiakin Braves, who have some problems of their own after losing starting guard Javan Williams to a broken foot during Fridays win over Southridge.
The Lions charged out in the first half on offense and held the Braves to just 14 points in the second half to record a 51-37 win at the Lions Den.
We havent smiled after a game in a while, Kennewick guard Mitchel Mueller said after collecting 19 points, 10 rebounds and two blocked shots in the Lions second consecutive home win over a ranked Kamiakin team over the last two seasons.
Weve got two guys back from last years team (Mueller and Devven Ramos), Mueller said. Its the best feeling in the world to beat Kamiakin.
The Braves got things started with a 3-pointer from Cooper Clyde 1:37 into the first quarter. The Lions responded, however, with an 11-2 run to take an 11-5 lead with 2:31 left in the first.
Clyde scored eight of his teams next 11 points to give Kamiakin a 16-13 lead with 3:51 left in the second quarter. Clyde, a senior guard, finished with a game-high 24 points.
Ramos started a 12-2 Kennewick run, however, with an NBA-range 3-pointer off an assist from John Wuol. Ramos chipped in seven of his nine points during the run, which put the Lions (4-13 overall, 2-9 MCC) up 25-18 with 53 seconds left in the first half.
Kylle Robertson scored five points over the final 20 seconds of the second quarter including a hustle-up-the-court 3 with 4 seconds left to cut the lead to 25-23.
At the half, we talked about keeping our heads up, Mueller said. Usually were trailing at halftime, so we were happy to come out with a lead.
The Lions stepped on the gas in the third quarter. After John Petsch scored for the Braves to tie the score at 25, Mueller fed Wuol for a transition layup that started a 14-1 run to put Kennewick in control. Wuol added a 3-pointer during the run and finished with seven points.
Aside from Clyde, Kamiakin (14-3, 10-1) struggled to find an offensive rhythm.
Clyde hit 9 of 16 shots, including 5-of-7 from behind the arc, but the rest of the team was just 4-for-21 (19 percent) from the field.
(Braves) coach (Brian) Meneely does a nice job of executing in the half court, but the guys did a really good job tonight making them uncomfortable, Lions coach Bradyn Leyde said. We were able to match their physicality. Our guys were able to push back.
That manifested itself in the form of 21 Kamiakin turnovers a number that didnt please Meneely very much.
I thought we got a little panicky against their pressure. We have to go back to some basics, Meneely said after his teams first conference loss. We gave up 51 points, but what we didnt do was function well on offense.
Clyde hit a pair of 3s in the fourth quarter and added a three-point play to score all of the Braves nine points in the frame. But Kennewick had the game under control by then, holding a steady cushion between them and another win.
Leyde admitted that not having Williams in Kamiakins backcourt allowed the Lions to apply a bit more pressure in certain spots.
You hate to see a senior go down. You dont ever want to see that. He does so much for them, Leyde said of last seasons CBBN 3A Defensive Player of the Year. It required some more of their guys to step up and make plays.
KAMIAKIN Robertson 8, Cooper Clyde 24, Petsch 5, Bayles, Gurney, Holle, Fowler, Joseph. Totals 13-37 4-10 37.
KENNEWICK Mitchel Mueller 19, J.Wuol 7, Westover 3, Ramos 9, Y.Wuol 4, Rutledge 2, Fernandez 3, Bugal 4, DeWitt, Conde, Plew, Tennancour. Totals 21-54 3-4 51.
Kamiakin 7 16 5 9 37
Kennewick 11 14 14 12 51
Highlights 3-pointers: Kam 7-20 (Clyde 5, Robertson 2), Ken 6-18 (Meller 2, J.Wuol, Fernandez, Westover, Ramos); Rebounds: Kam 36 (Robertson 10), Ken 24 (Mueller 10); Turnovers: Kam 21, Ken 5; Bugal 4 steals; Ramos 3 steals.