For the third season in a row, the Kamiakin girls basketball team finds itself on the brink of the state tournament.
And for the third time, they hope to advance to Tacoma.
The Braves (17-5 overall) face Lakes of Tacoma at 8 p.m. today at University High in Spokane Valley in the Class 3A regional playoffs. The winner of tonight’s game earns a spot in next week’s 3A state tournament, while the loser’s season ends.
“Our experience is definitely going to help,” junior Sira Toure said. “Since freshman year, we’ve been in these big situations and I think that will help big time.”The Braves played .571 ball in the last seven games of the regular season, losing to Chiawana, Hanford and Walla Walla.
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But once the playoffs hit, Kamiakin turned it up a notch.
The Braves hammered North Central 70-48 to open the District 5/8 Tournament, and then rolled past University 62-52 to clinch a spot in the regional playoffs.
“We’ve been running new plays and just working harder on defense,” sophomore post Lindsey Schauble said. “We’ve been distributing the ball better, so everyone has a chance to score.”
That will be key against a big and physical Lakes team today. Toure and Schauble are both averaging double digits, while senior Courtney Nelson — the Mid-Columbia Conference player of the year — leads the team in scoring. Post Amanda Miller is averaging nearly nine points per game as well.
“I think that is so important,” Kamiakin coach Lane Schumacher said of spreading the scoring load. “If you put everyone in a position to be successful, you can’t key in on one person. I think we’ve done that.”
The Braves had to spread out that scoring after losing all-state guard Khadidja Toure to graduation. Toure is now playing for the Pac-12’s Oregon State.
“I think we have done a great job of replacing her,” Schumacher said. “We have our top scorer for sure, but if they get shut down, I feel like our other people on the floor can contribute just as much.”
Kamiakin is also out to avenge last season, which was filled with so much promise but ended suddenly at state.
The Braves went 23-0 in the regular season and district tournament, but lost their two games at state and did not place.
“I don’t know what happened last year,” Toure said. “This year, we’re ready to play. We really want to bring it.
“That motivated us to do better this year.”
The players insist that last year’s sour end doesn’t put more pressure on them this season.
“It’s more of a determination that we want to come home with some kind of trophy,” Schauble said.
To bring home a trophy, though, they have to win their elimination game tonight.
“I feel like the key tonight will be composure and playing our game,” Toure said. “If we do that, we can beat any team and win state.”