Sports

Basketball | Kingston girls one win from a state berth

Kingston High
Kingston High's Crystal Hart dribbles against Fife's Ciara Pedroni Wednesday during the Buccaneers' district playoff game in Tacoma.
— image credit: Brad Camp/Staff Photo

TACOMA – The Kingston High girls basketball team is in familiar territory at the West Central District III playoffs this week.

The Buccaneers (16-5) are one win away from a third straight state tournament berth after defeating the Fife Trojans Wednesday, 52-36. Kingston will face Eatonville (18-3), the No. 1 seed from the Nisqually League, at 8 p.m. Friday at Foss High in Tacoma. A win would grant the Bucs a trip to the state tournament in Yakima next week. A loss would force them to play Saturday for one last chance at a state berth.

“We’re going to have to control,” Kingston coach Penny Gienger said of Friday’s game. “They (Eatonville) are going to press us all over the floor. We’ve just got to come in here and play, and I think we’re capable.”

The Bucs were shaky starting out Wednesday’s game against the Trojans (10-12). Both teams had trouble sinking shots during the first half. Kingston’s leading scorer, Sophia Baetz, who averaged 20.5 points per game this year, scored just five before halftime. The Bucs led, 18-13, at the break.

“In the first half, we couldn’t get going,” Gienger said. “We were like mud.”

Things didn’t get any better for the Bucs in the third quarter. Fife scored three quick baskets to take a 19-18 lead early in the quarter. Kingston fought back and took a five-point lead late. But by the end of the quarter, the Buccaneer lead was cut to three and Baetz was on the bench with an injured left knee.

Early in the fourth quarter, Baetz returned with her knee taped up and sank a 3-pointer that started a 9-0 run for the Bucs.

“Throughout the first half and into the third quarter, we were all nerves,” said Baetz, who finished with 18 to lead all scorers. “In the fourth quarter, we settled in and started running our stuff.”

Having the right personnel on the court helped as well. Gienger constantly rotated players from the bench to the floor during the first three quarters, looking for the right combination.

“We tried a lot of different players, trying to find a group that would click,” Gienger said. “I think I found that in the second half.”

The Trojans never regained their momentum once the Bucs pulled ahead in the fourth, allowing Kingston to march on to the win.

Still, Baetz said, the Bucs will have to stick to their game plan and do a better job of grabbing defensive boards if they hope for a similar outcome against the Cruisers on Friday.

“We let them get second shots, and we can’t do that against Eatonville,” Baetz said.

The other key?

“Shake off the nerves.”

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