The sixth-ranked Kamiakin boys basketball team was 2-0 against Southridge heading into Saturday's first-round CBBN district matchup in the Suns gym.
Here, the biggest concern for Braves coach Brian Meneely wasn't so much how his team would match up against Southridge, but how much the Suns -- winners of their previous four games -- had improved since the teams last faced each other in mid-December.
"We beat them by 33 (61-28 at Kamiakin) last time, but it's a month-and-a-half later," Meneely said. "We wanted to come out and start playing on a high note."
A month-and-a-half later, the Braves were as dominant as ever, stomping the Suns on their own court 73-42 with a strong effort from their triple scoring threat of Tyler Holle, Justin Pedley and Case Rada, and coupled with a tight defensive performance against Southridge's top scorers Matt Mendenhall and Derek Porter.
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Sixth-ranked Kamiakin (17-4) will travel to fourth-ranked Walla Walla (18-3) at 7 p.m. Tuesday in a winner-to-regionals matchup. Southridge (9-12) gets another home date against Kennewick (4-17) in a loser-out game at 7 p.m. Tuesday.
"I hope we can bring much of the same energy that Kamiakin did against us," said Suns coach Jason DeVere, whose team returned to the playoffs after sitting out last year. "Now we have a little more (playoff) experience and we can use it to feed off the crowd on Tuesday."
Holle, Pedley and Rada combined for 50 points, but the real difference came in putting a defensive clamp on Mendenhall and Porter. The Suns duo, who combined to average 30 points coming into the game, was held to just nine points on 4-of-21 shooting.
Porter, a 6-foot-5 junior post, did not score, and Mendenhall was never allowed to find his comfort zone against an active Kamiakin defense. Mendenhall, a sophomore guard, finished with nine points, hitting just 4 of 17 shots.
"We had to force (Mendenhall) to take some tough shots," said Pedley, a Braves sophomore who led all scorers with 18 points. "In practice we worked on digging into the post so Porter didn't have time to get set."
Southridge senior guard Kyle Stolle picked up some of the scoring slack, leading the team with 15 points. His 3-pointer with 6:33 left in the third quarter cut Kamiakin's lead to 37-27 and seemed to give the Suns some new life.
"I felt I had to step up and score," Stolle said.
But the Braves quickly stomped out the short Southridge rally, ending the quarter on a 24-7 run that gave them a commanding 61-34 lead.
"We went to a matchup zone that threw them a little off balance," Meneely said. "Our defense was the catalyst tonight."