KENNEWICK — Considering where the Kennewick boys basketball team was a year ago, even a 38-33 loss to Southridge on Tuesday night at the Lions Den seemed worth remembering.
Despite the Lions shooting just 27 percent (14-for-51) against the Suns and scoring just four points in the fourth quarter of a highly winnable game, maybe this night was one to celebrate.
Because after what seemed like an eternity, Kennewick (4-16) is back in the playoffs, earning the No. 4 seed into the CBBN district playoffs, where it will visit fifth-ranked Walla Walla at 8 p.m. Saturday.
"We talked a lot about believing in ourselves, and the kids really started to do it," said Lions coach Bradyn Leyde, who watched the team endure a 1-19 season in 2008-09. "It's been exciting to see them seize the opportunity and play like they're capable of."
Of course, Kennewick needed some help. The loss to Southridge meant that Davis had to beat Moses Lake, which it did with some difficulty. But the Pirates, the top Columbia Division seed, got the win and the Lions were in.
"It's a crosstown rivalry (against Southridge), so you definitely want to win, but it's nice to have a backup plan," said Lions senior Trent Brown. "We played them harder than we did the first time, but the shots weren't really falling. Both teams played great defense."
The Suns (9-11) also had something to celebrate. Not only did they sweep the season series against Kennewick, but Southridge also locked up the No. 2 seed and a first-round home game against Kamiakin at 7:30 p.m. Saturday.
"Where we were in December to where we are now, it's very satisfying for the players," said Suns coach Jason DeVere. "This is a hostile environment. I told the guys we're lucky to get away with a win tonight, but it's a great step."
Southridge had trouble finding its rhythm, too, shooting just 32 percent (15-for-47) from the field. Even the Suns' top scorer, 6-foot-5 post Derek Porter, struggled to find a comfort zone, getting called four times for traveling.
Porter still finished with a game-high 18 points and nine rebounds. Reggie Clinton led the Lions with nine points.
But after 13 lead changes and seven ties through the first three quarters, it was Southridge that got the upper hand in the fourth.
Senior guard Jordan McCollom got a shooter's bounce on a 14-foot jumper in the lane to put the Suns ahead 31-29 with 7:12 left. Southridge never trailed again, holding Kennewick to just four points the rest of the way.
"This was very similar to the Sunnyside game (a 60-51 overtime win 10 days ago), where we had to wait for somebody to step up and hit a big shot," Leyde said. "Tonight, we didn't answer the call."
SOUTHRIDGE — McCollom 5, Mendenhall 5, Whitney 3, Stolle, Derek Porter 18, Mickelsen, Palmer, McGee, Riel, Scott 3. Totals 15-47 7-12 38.
KENNEWICK — Reggie Clinton 9, Brown 7, Karr 7, Westermeyer 2, Sharp, Leavitt 2, Domach, Loftus 6, Santiago. Totals 14-51 3-10 33.
Southridge 11 9 9 9 — 38
Kennewick 10 8 11 4 — 33
Highlights — Rebounds: S 37 (Porter 9), K 25 (Leavitt 5, Loftus 5); 3-ptrs: S 1x15, K 2x20; Leavitt 6 assists; Mendenhall 2 steals; Porter 3 blocks.