TACOMA — Their legacy had long been established, but last night it was cemented.
Kentwood's Stuckey brothers, Rodney and Ronnie, capped their high-school careers in dramatic fashion, leading the third-ranked Conquerors to a 65-56 victory over No. 15 South Kitsap in the Class 4A boys state high-school basketball championship game at the Tacoma Dome.
Rodney, the sharp-shooting, offensive star, had 18 points, nine rebounds and three assists.
Ronnie, the hard-working, defensive stopper, had 12 points, four rebounds and seven assists.
With a lot of help from their teammates, they delivered the Covington school its first boys basketball state championship.
"The Stuckey brothers are big," said Kentwood coach Dean Montzingo. "I knew they were going to be big tonight. They just have worked too hard, and they've been the guts and soul of this team."
They gathered with their teammates at mid-court when it was over, the golden ball held high above the crowd. Confetti and streamers shot from behind both baskets and gathered on the floor. The Kentwood student section began the familiar chants of "We're No. 1! We're No. 1!"
And last night, there was little doubt.
Kentwood (26-2) took control with a 12-1 run in the first 3:35 of the third quarter, turning a tied contest into a game of catch-us-if-you-can.
The Wolves from Port Orchard came close, but ultimately couldn't.
"We just thought that this year was our year, you know, that we were on top," said Rodney Stuckey, a 6-foot-5 guard, after celebrating with his teammates in the dressing room. "And we are on top."
The game capped an amazing high-school career for Rodney, who never lost a home game in three seasons. This year, he was the co-MVP of the SPSL North Division and last night, was named the MVP of the state tournament.
"It feels good," he said. "Coming out on top, being No. 1, it always feels good."
Rodney will play next fall at Eastern Washington University, where he will team with South Kitsap's Jacob Beitinger. Beitinger, a 6-8 forward, also had an excellent game last night. He scored a game-high 20 points on 6-of-10 shooting and grabbed 11 rebounds, earning a spot on the all-state tournament first team for the second time in his career.
"Jacob is a great player in his own right," said South Kitsap coach John Callaghan. "I would go as far as to say I think he's the best basketball player that has come out of South Kitsap."
Most observers predicted the Wolves to fall somewhere short of the championship game, especially after a draw that placed South Kitsap in the same half of the bracket as defending state champion Franklin and top-ranked Bethel of Graham.
But they persevered to reach the state finals for the first time since 1950, when they beat Lincoln of Seattle 40-37 in overtime.
This was South Kitsap's fourth consecutive appearance in the state tournament. The Wolves went two-and-out in 2001, finished eighth in 2002 and fifth last year.
"I think we're a great team also," Callaghan said. "It's disappointing. Everyone had their heart set on it, but you know what? You do your best and play as hard as you can."
South Kitsap trailed for much of the first quarter before outscoring Kentwood 11-2 over the final 3:05 of the period to take a 17-12 lead.
Junior Derrick Webb scored all five of his first-half points during the run, which was the biggest for either team in the first half.
Kentwood sliced the lead to 19-18 on a three-pointer from Ronnie Stuckey with 6:25 left before halftime. But the Wolves answered with consecutive baskets from Beitinger to push their advantage back to five, at 23-18.
Rodney Stuckey scored the game's next five points to tie the score at 23 with two minutes remaining in the first half.
The game was tied at 27 at halftime.
Kentwood took a 39-28 lead after the 12-1 run to start the third quarter.
South Kitsap cut its deficit to 43-39 with 6.8 seconds left in the third quarter. But Kentwood's Blake Solomon made a three-pointer from the right corner as the buzzer sounded, giving the Conquerors a 46-39 lead entering the final period.
"I was struggling the entire game, but coach told me to get my feet under me, get set, and look for my shot," said Solomon, a 6-1 junior guard who contributed 16 points, four rebounds and two assists.
The Wolves whittled the margin to 51-48 with 3:46 remaining, but Rodney Stuckey and Matt Mgebroff made consecutive baskets over the next minute to push the lead to 55-48.
South Kitsap never seriously threatened again, and Callaghan emptied his bench with 15.7 seconds left.
Matt Peterson: 206-515-5536 or email@example.com
|Class 4A Conquerors|
|Kentwood has won four Class 4A boys state championships in less than four years:|
|2004||Basketball||Beat S. Kitsap, 65-56|
|2002||Football||Beat Capital, 35-28|
|2001||Football||Beat Pasco, 38-24|
|2000||Baseball||Beat Kelso, 10-2|
|Stuckey vs. Beitinger|
|South Kitsap's Jacob Beitinger and Kentwood's Rodney Stuckey, who will be teammates at Eastern Washington University, played key roles in getting their teams to the finals. How they fared at state:|
|6 feet 8||Height||6 feet 5|