KENNEWICK — The frustration was evident on the faces of Kennewick’s players.
Gone was a double-digit lead. Gone was one of their starters after fouling out. And suddenly it looked like their season would be gone as well.
Despite nearly everything going against the Lions in the fourth quarter of Wednesday’s CBBN 3A play-in game against Pasco at Kamiakin, the Lions showed maturity beyond their years and rallied for a 50-41 victory.
“We played like a veteran team,” Kennewick sophomore Ashley Kump said. “We were mentally ready for them.”
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Kennewick led by as many as 13 in the third quarter and still led 38-26 at the start of the fourth quarter when things went south.
The Lions couldn’t make a basket and then started struggling defensively as calls started going against them.
It was capped off by technical fouls on Kennewick coach Tarah Staton and starter Whitney Hicks.
After five free throws by Pasco’s Adri Trevino and two by Cierah Alferness in a span of 13 seconds, the Bulldogs suddenly were within 38-37.
Pasco got another stop, and Yessica Diaz made a layup at the other end for the Bulldogs’ first lead since the early minutes of the game.
“The kids were mentally awesome,” Staton said. “We have six sophomores, and they really impressed me with their mental strength.”
Staton called timeout, calmed the team down, and the Lions went out and closed the game on a 12-2 run to advance to the CBBN 3A district tournament.
Kennewick will play at Hanford at either 5 or 6 p.m. Friday in another elimination game.
“We all kind of came together and decided to calm down,” Kump said. “We tried to put in our shots and make sure to make our free throws.”
Junior Kim Harrod started the run with a jumper, and after Diaz was whistled for an offensive foul, Kennewick senior Kim Sanders put her team on top 42-39 on a putback with 3 minutes, 24 seconds remaining.
A turnover by Pasco led to a Kump pull-up jumper, and Sanders then made a layup. After two desperation 3-pointers by Pasco were no good, Kump made four free throws to close the 12-0 run.
“We wanted to win it for our senior, Kim Sanders,” Kump said. “We knew we weren’t mentally ready (Tuesday, a 31-10 loss to Southridge) and we knew we had to win this game. So, we all stepped up.”
For Pasco, the loss was especially tough to swallow after such a big rally.
“We had a momentum shift,” Pasco coach Aaron Barcot said. “We let our inexperience step in.”
The Bulldogs season ended with the loss, though they do return eight players next season.
“It’s disappointing knowing we have several opportunities throughout the year,” Barcot said. “Knowing we lost a 15-point lead against West Valley and a couple of other games we could’ve won. But that comes back to coaching and me not having the team prepared.”
For Kennewick, the Lions will hope to continue their late-season run into the playoffs with a win against a Hanford team that swept them during the regular season.
“We were a little sketchy in the middle of the season,” Kump said. “We know we are a good team. We knew other teams weren’t expecting us to do this, but we just stepped up.”
Kump finished with 12 points and was 6-for-6 from the free-throw line. Angelique Whistocken had 14 points and 14 rebounds, while Janey Valerio added 10 points.
Diaz and Trevino led the Bulldogs with 14 points each, while Yenixa Benitez finished with eight points and seven rebounds off of the bench.
PASCO — Jonna Schmaljohn 1 0-0 3, Kylie Iverson 0 0-0 0, Yessica Diaz 5 4-6 14, Cierah Alferness 0 2-4 2, Adri Trevino 4 5-6 14, Yenixa Benitez 4 0-1 8, Melissa Rodriguez 0 0-0 0. Totals 14 11-17 41.
KENNEWICK — Angelique Whistocken 7 0-0 14, Kim Harrod 3 0-0 6, Kim Sanders 3 2-2 8, Janey Valerio 3 3-3 10, Ashley Kump 3 6-6 12, McKayla Sanders 0 0-0 0, Whitney Hicks 0 0-0 0, Panisesi Taimani 0 0-0 0. Totals 19 11-11 50.
Pasco 10 7 11 13 — 41
Kennewick 13 13 10 14 — 50
3-point goals — Pasco 2 (Schmaljohn, Trevino), Kennewick 1 (Valerio). Total fouls — Pasco 15, Kennewick 15. Fouled out — Kennewick, Hicks. Technical fouls — Kennewick, coach Tarah Staton, Hicks. Rebounds — Pasco 26 (Benitez 7), Kennewick 39 (Whistocken 14). Turnovers — Pasco 20, Kennewick 22.
* Craig Craker: 509-582-1509; email@example.com