Basketball: Kingston girls win first-round nailbiter to head to state quarterfinals

YAKIMA – They say revenge is a dish best served cold. So it’s a good thing Sophia Baetz really knows how to ice a game.

The Kingston sophomore lit up the scoreboard with 29 points in a down-to-the-wire comeback win for the Bucs Wednesday against River Ridge in the first round of the Class 2A state tournament at the Yakima SunDome.

“I’m fortunate to have Sophia Baetz on the basketball team” said Kingston head coach Kevin Strozier. “She makes a big difference.”

River Ridge beat Kingston in the first round of last year’s state tournament before going on to take the title. This year, the Buccaneers were determined to force a different outcome. But the task was easier said than done.

“We played a terrible first half, I thought,” said Strozier. “We were rushing things, we were just overanxious.”

Kingston came out looking sloppy, and the first half was plagued with uncharacteristic mistakes. They let go of a 7-4 first quarter lead to end up trailing 18-7 early in the second. By halftime, the Hawks led 22-16.

“Mainly, the first half was just all nerves,” said Baetz. “All we had to do, in the second half, was just settle down and play our game.”

Going into the second half, Kingston switched from a man to a 1-2-2 defense. The two teams appeared more evenly matched in the third quarter, as both put up 16 points, to make it 38-32.

The Bucs gained momentum in the fourth, and began to roll late in the game. Laura Wicklein’s 8-8 free throws helped keep Kingston close. The Bucs pulled to within one when Baetz hit a 3-pointer with just over four minutes left in the game. Soon the Hawks made it a four-point difference, after River Ridge’s Jennifer Cole was fouled on a layup, sinking the shot and the ensuing free throw. Then Baetz, who scored 20 points in the second half, really went to work. After making two free throws, Baetz just seconds later drove in for a layup to tie the game at 47. The Hawks then turned the ball over under their own hoop in the final seconds, giving Kingston one last chance. Baetz again drove the lane, but was denied. After one last missed try by the Hawks, the game went into overtime.

“We didn’t stop playing,” said Strozier. “That’s just a sign of this team’s maturity and how they’ve come together.”

Things continued back and forth in overtime, until River Ridge went up 54-53 with 19 seconds left. Baetz then ran the baseline for a layup, and was fouled with 13 ticks on the clock, to make it 55-54. After a missed free throw and a traveling call against Kingston, the Hawks had the ball with 10 seconds left, but gave it back to the Bucs. Wicklein broke away for a layup at the buzzer, and missed, coming down hard on her left ankle, but the game was over and Kingston began the celebration.

“To win the first game is always the toughest one,” said Strozier. “It keeps you where you want to be at.”

Kingston will play next against Archbishop Murphy Thursday at 9 p.m.

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