That the Skyview girls basketball team had a shot to win at the end of Tuesday's battle with Kentwood in the opening round of the Class 4A West Central bi-district tournament was testament to the Storm's tenacity.
That the visiting Conquerers escaped the Skyview gym with a 54-53 win was a demonstration of the value of height and experience in postseason basketball.
For the Storm, the loss means they need to win two consecutive loser-out games to reach the state playoffs.
Skyview (14-8) will play Gig Harbor in a loser-out game at 6 p.m. on Friday at Bellarmine Prep High School in Tacoma.
Jenny Johnson, a 5-foot-11 Kentwood junior, scored seven of her 18 points in the fourth quarter, including a put-back bucket with 25 seconds left that provided the winning points.
Kylee Ashley, a 6-foot senior, set a Kentwood school record with eight blocked shots as the Conquerers made it difficult for the Storm to get any close-range points.
Still, Skyview was close to escaping with a win despite trailing much of the game.
A steal and two free throws by Stephanie McDonagh put Skyview up 53-52 with 42.5 seconds on the clock.
Kentwood's Ashley Rolsma then missed a driving layup, but Johnson got the rebound and scored to make it 54-53.
"That's Jenny. She's experienced state playoffs in soccer, and last year we lost out in regionals, so she can handle pressure," Kentwood coach Lisa Ashley said.
Kentwood (16-7) moves into a bi-district quarterfinal game on Friday against Todd Beamer.
Skyview's youth -- the Storm have two players back from last season's state championship team, but do not play a senior in the regular rotation -- showed on the next possession.
After a Storm timeout, a quick drive to the basket was swatted away by Ashley.
Rolsma missed a free throw with 10.7 seconds left, but a desperate 3-point try from McDonagh was knocked away as she released it at the buzzer.
"A very good team, inside and outside," Skyview coach Jennifer Buscher said of Kentwood. "They deserve the credit tonight."
McDonogh led the Storm with 18 points and made four steals, including knocking the ball loose to set up her go-ahead free throws in the final minute. Aubrey Ward-El and Hannahjoy Adams each scored 10 points for the Storm.
After an up-and-down first quarter ended with the Conquerers up 21-20, Skyview struggled to score despite looking inside in the second quarter. The Storm shot 4-for-18 in the second quurter and trailed 38-30 at the break.
Skyview's defense ruled the third quarter, and the Storm got back in the game. But every time it looked like the momentum might stay with the home team, Johnson made a play for Kentwood.
"I've got to give credit to my kids, though. They battled tonight," Buscher said. "They bought into what we wanted to do. They worked their tails off and we made it a game."
After going 10-0 to win the regular-season Greater St. Helens League, consecutive losses to Union and Kentwood have Skyview in a must-win spot.
"We're not going to worry about (the losses). We're going to leave this one behind us and move on," Buscher said.
"This is the position we're in. We're going to make the best of it."
KENTWOOD 54, SKYVIEW 53
KENTWOOD (16-7) -- Sarah Toeaina 6, Kylee Ashley 5, Jenny Johnson 18, Kate Kramer 9, Zaria Jones 3, Chante Brooks 0, Ashley Rolsma 15. Totals 21-45 (5-15) 7-15 54.
SKYVIEW (14-8) -- Stephanie McDonagh 18, Aubrey Ward-El 10, Cassie Swartz 2, Gen Lo 4, Neesen Bristow 9, Hannahjoy Adams 10. Totals 19-48 (4-15) 11-17 53.
Kentwood 21 17 5 11--54
Skyview 20 10 11 12--53