KENNEWICK -- Kassy Larson didn't get to play the last time Kamiakin advanced to the state tournament.
But that doesn't mean the then-freshman didn't gain the experience of being at state and seeing what it takes to get there.
Larson thinks this Kamiakin team she is apart of has that special something that is needed.
"I am confident with our leadership on the team," Larson said, "with the girls that come out and play that we can do this. We all have that drive to win."
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Kamiakin (17-5) faces North Central (16-8) at 6 p.m. Friday at Shadle Park High School in Spokane.
The winner earns a berth in the Class 3A state tournament March 3-5 in Tacoma. The loser will have another shot at state in an elimination game Saturday.
"The last three or four games, they're playing with the tenacity on defense that we had anticipated," Kamiakin coach Tammy Hutchison said. "They are running the offense and working as a team as we had hoped for.
"Everything is kind of jelling right now and they are very confident."
The Braves showed their mettle last weekend, going on the road and avenging a loss at Eastmont to bring home the CBBN 3A district tournament title.
"I think it gave a lot of the girls motivation that we can win and go far as a team," sophomore Courtney Nelson said. "It wasn't just Khadidja (Toure), it was just one of those players out there scoring -- one of the freshmen stepped up, everyone stepped up. It was really good for us."
Larson also had her best game since returning from a knee injury that forced her out of action for a large part of the regular season.
The 6-foot-2 post tied a season-high with 12 points and pulled down 16 rebounds, dominating the Wildcats underneath.
That Larson is back at all is a bit of miracle and a lot of determination.
She tore her ACL in a scrimmage against the boys team before the season started. She then played in four of the team's first seven games because doctors thought she had a torn meniscus. Eventually she had an MRI and it was discovered she had a torn ACL in her right knee.
"The day we found out we were trying to figure out what was best for me and for the team," Larson said. "But in my mind, I knew I was going to come back and play because it was my senior year and I really, really wanted to play with this set of girls."
Larson eventually did come back after missing six consecutive games. She has started to get back into the flow better recently, averaging 11.3 points per game in the last four games.
"I think it is part of the fact that I'm not worried about my knee as much," she said. "I think about it, but I don't say, 'Hey, I can't do this.' Or, 'Hey, I can't do that.'
"I just go out and play the game."
Which is something her teammates have been doing as well, which is why the Braves are one win away from reaching their first state tournament in three years.
* Craig Craker: 509-582-1509; firstname.lastname@example.org