(Troy Wayrynen/The Columbian)
Union had an answer for every charge from Kentridge on Tuesday night, and now the Titans are one win away from the Class 4A girls basketball regionals.
Jessica Chatman had 17 points, two on a game-securing drive with a minute play, and Kendra Preuninger was true on three 3-pointers, leading Union to a 52-44 win over the Chargers in the opening round of the 4A bi-district tournament.
Union will face Puyallup at Stadium High School in Tacoma on Friday in a winner-to-regional game.
With Tuesday's win, the Titans have two games left to win one to make it to the state round of 16.
"Oh my gosh: We're one step away," Chatman said.
The Titans never trailed in the second half. Preuninger scored eight of her 13 points in the third quarter. Her third 3-pointer of the game gave Union a 40-30 lead late in the third.
Chatman took over in the fourth quarter. Besides her points, she finished with 14 rebounds.
"I wasn't making a lot of my shots," Chatman said. "Our offense, in general, wasn't as good as it usually is. We always say make it up on defense. This was a crash-the-boards kind of team. We knew we had to box out more and get some rebounds. I went for all of them."
Kentridge cut a 12-point deficit to three points with just less than three minutes to play, but Chatman would make two free throws and the Chargers never got within one possession the rest of the way.
Courtnae Williams led Kentridge with 16 points but was 4 of 14 from the free throw line. Michelle Keowla added 10 points and five steals.
Up 48-44, the Titans played keep-away for most of the 30-second shot clock before Chatman drove the lane and finished with a second on the shot clock, 1:05 in the game, making it 50-44. Kentridge was out of offense, and the Titans made two free throws to account for the final score.
"It's awesome to come out in the playoffs like this," Preuninger said. "We're playing people we haven't played before. It's tougher. It's more of a battle. We like to battle our hearts out to get a win."
Union coach Roger Shepard said that's what his team had to do. Other than a spurt in the third quarter, the offense was stagnant, with very little ball movement.
"Good teams find a way to win when they're playing poorly," Shepard said. "A clutch shot here. Jessica owned the boards. Emily (Rowe) stepped up and gave us a punch of offense when we needed it."
Rowe finished with nine points. Her strong move to the hoop after Chatman kept alive an offensive rebound with a tip pass gave Union a 46-39 lead midway through the fourth quarter.
That seven-point margin was kind of a magical spread for the Titans.
Chatman, Preuninger, and Rowe finished the first half with a 7-0 run to break a 19-19 tie. Kentridge cut the lead to three on three occasions in the second half, but Union would get it back to seven, or more, each time.
Preuninger made 3 of 4 from long range and made all three of her shots in the third quarter -- Union's best period with 16 points.
"I was just on, man," she said. "When they went into zone, I got excited."
She credited her teammates using the inside-out game and the skip passes to find her open.
Shepard said he hopes his team will play like that for four quarters in Friday's game.
The competition, in theory, gets tougher.
As Preuninger said, the Titans are OK with that. They want a battle. They want to earn it. And they want to get Union into the round of 16 for the first time in program history.
UNION 52, KENTRIDGE 44
Kentridge - Alicia Dugan 9, Courtnae Williams 16, Kiki Gilbert 4, Michelle Keowla 10, Terrianna Emerson-Roe 4, Anna Dugan 1, Jessica Torlai 0, Lizzet Dominguez 0. Totals 16-57 (1-15) 11-25 44.
Union - Tessa Vanderpool 3, Tuileisu Anderson 4, Hannah O'Donnell 3, Jessica Chatman 17, Emily Rowe 9, Kendra Preuninger 13, Molly Petrie 0, Katie Burbank 3, Grace Davis 0, Katharine Williams 0. Totals 16-46 (4-14) 16-28 52.
Kentridge 8 11 12 13---44
Union 12 14 16 10---52