Kennedy girls march their way back to Pendleton
Despite four consecutive Tri-River Conference titles and five straight trips to the state quarterfinal tournament, the Kennedy girls basketball team continues to treat each trip to Pendleton like it's their first.
The No. 1 Trojans (26-1, 14-0 Tri-River Conference) beat the Lakeview Honkers (14-14, 11-3 Southern Cascade League) 68-17 in the first round of the 2A state playoffs on Saturday, earning yet another trip to the Pendleton Convention Center.
Kennedy has made the quarterfinal-hosting city its second home over the past half-decade, winning state titles in 2016 and 2018, and this year's new class of Trojan athletes are eager to pick up the flag and attempt to become the first back-to-back champs since the Regis Rams won four straight 2A titles from 2011-14.
"Someone asked me the other day, 'What makes them want to win every night?'" Kennedy Co-Head Coach Kerry Hall said after the victory over Lakeview. "They've been playing ball since fourth, fifth grade. They've put in a lot of work. Why wouldn't you want to win every night?"
Many of the key players that have contributed to this year's success watched from the bench during last year's title run and are taking full advantage of their featured roles in the 2018-19 season.
"We graduated seven seniors last year," Hall said. "I was really excited for the girls who were on the bench and got sporadic playing time. They were a part of that (title run), but weren't in that starting lineup, so every year it's so exciting."
And if the results from Saturday's game against the Honkers is any indication, this year's Trojans will be even more difficult to stop than last year's team.
Kennedy enjoyed one of its most solidly all-around victories of the season against Lakeview, with senior Kalyssa Kleinschmit scoring a game-high 16 points to lead five players in double figures on the day. Kleinschmit was followed by junior teammate Sophia Carley with 12 points. The pair return as primary figures from last year's title team, but the surrounding parts that contributed to Saturday's victory are enjoying their new moment in the limelight.
Sophmore Ellie Cantu added 12 points, followed by 10 each from senior Clarissa Traeger and sophomore Hailey Arritola. Add in eight points off the bench from sophomore Elise Suing, and the Trojans nearly had a sixth player reach double digits.
The multi-faceted offense allows Kennedy to mix-and-match its way against any opponent, making the Trojans a particularly difficult beast to slay."We keep telling the girls individuals don't win titles. Teams win titles," Hall said. "Every night if you have a bad night, you need to have a teammate that's willing to fill that spot."
And in the case where no one has a bad night, and everyone is playing on the same page, the Trojans become nigh unbeatable.
Carley has been the team's rock in the post, averaging 18.3 points, nine rebounds, 3.7 blocks and 2.1 assists this season en route to earning her second consecutive Conference Player of the Year honors.
Kleinschmit is nearly behind at 15.6 points, six rebounds, two assists and two steals while Cantu packs a robust punch at 12 points, six boards, six assists and a whopping 4.5 steals.
Together, the trio counts as the Trojans' 'Big Three,' but as Lakeview learned, Kennedy's strength lies just as much in its depth of talent.
"The big three are the ones you can just count on. They just get their stuff," Co-Head Coach Peter Hall said. "But tonight, the big three didn't struggle. We were pushing the ball up and trying to match their pace. We like to be able to run and control the pace."
"I was really pleased with our effort from top to bottom," Peter Hall continued. "This is the way to go into Pendleton."
The Trojans open the quarterfinals Thursday against the No. 9 Central Linn Cobras (21-5, 10-4 Central Valley Conference). To follow the 2019 2A girls basketball quarterfinals, go to http://www.osaa.org/activities/gbx/brackets.