Late charge not enough for Cougars

PUYALLUP — Remember The Stepford Wives, the movie about those robotic, brainwashed housewives who seemed to take little interest in life except for small domestic details and chores?

Well, Central Kitsap inexplicably showed up as the Stepford Cougars for their West Central/Southwest District 4A girls basketball game on Tuesday, Feb. 26. They yawned through three quarters of unemotional playoff basketball before deciding it was time to turn on the intensity.

They did make it exciting, cutting a 15-point deficit to four. But unfortunately, the Cougars waited too long and now they’re gone.

Kentridge eliminated the Cougars, 48-42, in the loser-out game at Emerald Ridge High School.

“For whatever reason, they didn’t have the intensity that I really wanted them to come in with,” Central coach Denise Baxter said. “I think they were very tentative. They weren’t quite sure who they were and that’s the first time that has shown the last couple games. But at least they made a decision at the end to try to do something. Had we not gone out like that, I definitely would have considered it a disappointing loss.”

Central nailed five threes in the final quarter — Sheena Stangler knocked in three and Amber McKinnis two — and Aimee Carroll keyed an inspired defensive effort to make a game out of it. Stangler’s last three with 51 seconds left pulled the Cougars within 46-42.

Central then made a defensive stop following a timeout and looked like it had cut the gap to two when Carroll sliced to the basket, but her shot somehow rimmed out with 21 seconds left.

Sarah Sommerman, a 6-foot senior who scored a game-high 19 points, ended the suspense by making two free throws with 11 seconds left for Kentridge (15-9), which can advance to state as the district’s No. 6 seed with a win over Bethel on Thursday, Feb. 28. If the Chargers lose that one, they’ll get another shot to earn the district’s seventh and final berth on Saturday, March 2.

Baxter knows the Cougars (15-9), who ended a nine-game district losing streak that had stretched over five years by beating Gig Harbor on Feb. 15, had blown a golden opportunity.

Even after a lackluster opening half, the Cougars only trailed 24-18. But it got worse, not better. Central turned it over seven times and missed five shots in its first 12 possessions of the third quarter. When Adria Layne finally scored with 2:36 left in the quarter, Kentridge led 34-20.

“Obviously, it was not even close to our potential,” Baxter said of the Cougars’ effort through three quarters. “There was no emotion there. They were just kind of going through the motions. Somebody’s got to step up and take charge. A couple people turn the ball over a couple times and disappear on you. You miss a couple shots and they don’t want to shoot anymore. Again, someone’s got to step up and forget this and go for it.”

Baxter said it was a combination of being too unselfish (“It’s a good trait, but it’s a weakness for us at times. Everybody wants to make sure everybody’s involved and sometimes you’ve got to stop passing it and take a shot.”) and not being aggressive enough on offense.

“And the times we were aggressive, when Adria (Layne) was penetrating and kicking the ball out, we couldn’t make wide-open shots,” Baxter said. “So then everybody kind of goes, ‘Oh, no, it’s not going to happen.’”

The Cougars definitely missed Nicole Zygmontowicz and her 16.6 scoring average. With Zygmontowicz in the lineup, the Cougs scored 60 or more points eight times during the regular season. In four postseason games — one Narrows League playoff and three district games — Central scored 37, 32, 46 and 42 points.

Zygmontowicz, a junior who tore an ACL in her right knee in the next-to-last league game, will be back next year along with everybody but McKinnis, CK’s only senior.

“I’m really disappointed it’s my last game,” McKinnis said, “because I really love playing with all these girls, but they have a good future. I expect them to go further (next year).”

McKinnis, who scored 10 points in her final game, expected to go further this year, too.

“We didn’t come out intense at all,” she said. “I really don’t know why. I don’t know what happened. I know if we played the whole game like we did those final minutes, it would be a different story.”

Layne, the 5-11 junior who shared team scoring honors with Stangler — both finished with 12 points — couldn’t explain CK’s lack of emotion early-on.

“We got it together in the fourth quarter,” she said. “I wish we could have done that earlier in the game. Mentally, we weren’t ready to play.”

That answer led to the million dollar question: Why not?

“I was trying to get myself in the mood, but it was kind of hard,” Layne said, laughing at the absurdity of what she had just said. “I shouldn’t say that, but it was true.”

Central’s furious finish helped ease the pain somewhat.

“I’m proud of them,” Baxter said. “They had to make a stand and decided they weren’t going to go down that way. They have a lot of heart, a lot of character.”

Kentridge 48, Central Kitsap 42

Central Kitsap 8 10 5 19 — 42

Kentridge 12 12 14 10 — 48

Central Kitsap — Adria Layne 12, Aimee Carroll 6, Amber McKinnis 10, Sheena Stangler 12 , Noel Gregory 2, Jaime Gilbert.

Kentridge — Sarah Sommerman 19, Krystal Robinson 11, Chanze Patterson 8, Kelly Kuolt 2, Mellissa Buitrago 2, Amanda Atler 2, Kinita Harris, Rachel Velonza, Re’Onda Hall 2.

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