The King’s Way Christian girls basketball team had lost six of its first eight games. Yet, Knights coach Randy Graves was optimistic.
As a team with just one senior and two starting sophomores entered Trico League play, Graves had seen too much improvement to believe the Knights would continue to struggle.
“I kept telling them it’s going to be a tough preseason, but you’ll be better for it,” Graves said.
Now, King’s Way is rolling. The Knights earned their seventh straight win on Thursday, beating Tenino 40-32 in the first round of the 1A district playoffs at King’s Way.
King’s Way (11-8) will travel to face Evergreen Conference champion Elma (14-6) in the district semifinals on Saturday.
King’s Way survived Thursday’s loser-out game with solid shooting early and tough defense late.
Laurel Quinn hit three 3-pointers in the first quarter, sparking the Knights to a 17-9 lead.
Tenino (9-12) pulled within 29-25 late in the third quarter. But King’s Way allowed zero field goals in the fourth quarter, with all of Tenino’s seven points coming at the foul line.
Quinn’s fourth 3-pointer put the Knights up 36-28 and all but sealed the game. She finished with a team-high 14 points.
As the team has improved, Quinn said passes are crisper and open shots are more common.
“We see each other a lot better,” Quinn said. “Our team chemistry is so much better since the start of the season.”
The Knights started to believe in themselves after starting Trico League play with lopsided wins over Castle Rock and Stevenson.
The Knights then lost to Seton Catholic and eventual champ La Center by a combined nine points. But giving those league rivals a test gave the young Knights confidence.
King’s Way hasn’t lost since that first game against La Center on Jan. 22.
“Our first loss to them was hard, but then we really clicked after that,” Quinn said. “We started working together as a team and getting those good looks.”
Both Graves and his players said this year’s team has grown steadily closer.
“Every girl on this team steps up and says ‘this is my role to play,'” junior Abby Cummins said. “We all help each other and are on each other’s shoulders.”
That includes off the court, too
“Especially playing other sports, we all get to know each other,” said sophomore Annabelle Atwood, who had seven of her team’s first nine second-half points. “There’s a lot of encouragement from the older girls. They show us how to play and have fun while we’re playing.”
KING’S WAY CHRISTIAN 40, TENINO 32
TENINO (9-12) — Grace Vestal 2, Megan Letts 3, Abby Severse 0, Rilee Jones 0, Nicole Fralick 0, Kayla Feltus 0, Malika Slassi 0, Ashley Schow 15, Alivia Hunter 12, Cheyenne Rossow 0. Totals 9 (1) 13-18 32.
KING’S WAY CHRISTIAN (11-8) — Avery Hsu 0, Kinsey Tindol 8, Camille Vaughan 0, Riley Philbrook 4, Haley Bristowe 0, Annabelle Atwood 7, Savanna Woody 0, Laurel Quinn 14, Piper Meek 0, Sara Thudium 0, Abby Cummins 7, Izzy Hill 0. Totals. 16 (5) 3-7 40.
Tenino 9 8 8 7—32
King’s Way 17 7 7 9—40