KENNEWICK -- With Kennewick's season hanging in the balance earlier this week, senior Kim Sanders made a decision.
Rather than continuing to rely on only her teammates, she was going to look to score.
The difference for the Lions has been huge, as Kennewick locked up at least a spot in a tie-breaker game with a 45-31 victory at Southridge on Friday.
"To win, we needed a scorer," Sanders said. "So, I figured I'd step up. It's my senior season and it's been my big push."
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to the Tri-City Herald
The Lions have relied on post Angelique Whistocken throughout the season, but a secondary scoring threat was needed.
Step in Sanders.
Sanders scored the first five points of the game for Kennewick, before heading to the bench with foul trouble.
Coming out of halftime, Sanders went to work, making two jumpers to help the Lions take a 32-27 lead into the fourth quarter.
"Kim has turned into a full-on basketball player," Kennewick coach Tarah Staton said. "She's seeing the floor better and she's playing like a senior."
Sanders finished with 12 points for Kennewick three days after scoring 14 to lead the Lions past West Valley in a must-win game.
The Lions went on a 12-2 run from late in the third to late in the fourth to put the game away.
Kim Harrod started it with a lay-in, Whistocken had a putback and two free throws, Sanders had a nice baseline lay-in and she capped the run by making 1-of-2 free throws to put Kennewick ahead 39-29 and seal the victory.
"They played with more intensity tonight," Southridge coach Scott Stiles said. "The playoffs are on the line and their girls stepped up and met the challenge."
The game was hard-fought and physical, as not only were the playoffs on the line, but the two schools are rivals. Sanders and Southridge's Kari Ratchford got in a minor dustup that earned Sanders a technical foul.
"We wanted this so bad," Sanders said, "because they are our rivals and we wanted to make the playoffs."
The first meeting between the teams was tight until halftime, when Southridge came out firing on all cylinders in the second half to blow Kennewick out.
The Lions didn't let that happen this time, as they used suffocating defense to hold the Suns to 13 second-half points.
"The defense has improved the last two weeks, that's the bottom line," Staton said. "Our defense has gotten so much better."
While the Lions have reason to celebrate, Southridge must rebound today and defeat West Valley to have any shot at the postseason. Southridge needs a win tonight and a Kennewick loss to Eastmont to force a tie-break game between the two teams Tuesday.
"We have to come out (today) and play as hard as we have all season," Stiles said.
Southridge had a short bench Friday, as two players were injured and another was suspended for violating team rules. Freshman Kylie Fraga got significant minutes in the second half , filling in for the suspended and injured players.
"The short bench hurt us," Stiles said.
Whistocken's 14 points and 14 rebounds were both game highs, while Janey Valerio added eight points and Harrod pulled down seven rebounds for Kennewick.
Emma Sanders' 14 points led Southridge, as she single-handedly kept the Suns close in the third quarter scoring seven of her team's nine points. Ratchford added six points.
KENNEWICK -- Kim Sanders 4 4-5 12, Janey Valerio 2 2-2 8, Ashley Kump 1 0-1 2, Panisesi Taimani 1 0-2 2, Angelique Whistocken 6 2-2 14, McKayla Sanders 1 0-0 2, Kim Harrod 1 3-4 5, Whitney Hicks 0 0-0 0. Totals 16 11-15 45.
SOUTHRIDGE -- Paige Sorensen 1 1-2 3, Ingrid Stein 2 0-1 4, Meghan Sorensen 0 2-2 2, Kari Ratchford 2 0-1 6, Emma Sanders 5 2-2 14, Breanna Lyons 1 0-0 2, Taylor Bauman 0 0-0 0, Kylie Fraga 0 0-0 0. Totals 11 5-8 31.
Kennewick 11 13 8 13 -- 45
Southridge 10 8 9 4 -- 31
3-point goals -- Kennewick 2 (Valerio 2), Southridge 4 (Ratchford 2, Sanders 2). Total fouls -- Kennewick 14, Southridge 18. Fouled out -- Southridge, P. Sorensen. Technical fouls -- Kennewick, Sanders. Rebounds -- Kennewick 49 (Whistocken 14), Southridge 29 (Stein 5). Turnovers -- Kennewick 21, Southridge 9.