Champions: Kennedy girls make basketball history with state 2A title

March 2016 Posted in School, Sports
Lakin Susee takes flight. Left, the JFK girls celebrate their victory. Photo by Beth Stafford.

Lakin Susee takes flight. Left, the JFK girls celebrate their victory. Photo by Beth Stafford.

By Steve Ritchie and James Day

How dominant was Kennedy in the Class 2A girls basketball tournament?

One stat pretty much tells the story: The Trojans won their three games by an average of 20 points, including a 52-32 victory against Burns on March 3 at the Pendleton Convention Center.

Earlier the top-ranked Trojans had dispatched Bonanza 60-35 in the quarterfinals and Tri-River Conference rival Western Mennonite 48-32 in the semifinals on the way to the first state basketball title in school history.

“It just seems unreal,” said senior Lakin Susee, an all-tournament selection and Tri-River player of the year. “It’s something we’ve been working for all year. It’s just crazy.”

“I have no words,” said senior Taylor Brown … who then found some. “I’m just so excited. Everyone worked as hard as they could and we just deserved it . . . It was just motivation tonight. It’s my last game and I wanted to play (for my teammates) tonight more than myself.”

Kenzie Ratliff takes a shot.  Photo by Beth Stafford.

Kenzie Ratliff takes a shot. Photo by Beth Stafford.

Kennedy senior Kenzie Ratliff, the tournament’s dominant player, concurred that hard work and effort were the keys.

“We have been excited throughout the playoffs and as seniors we knew these last … games were all we had,” said Ratliff, the lone unanimous all-tournament selection. “We just told the team, ‘This is the time. The time is now and we’ve got to get it.’ ”
Ratliff averaged 17.7 points and 9.3 rebounds during the tournament. Susee, meanwhile, averaged 12.8 points, led the tourney in assists (5.0 per game) and was second in steals (2.7 per game). Ratliff and Susee also were all-tournament selections last year when Kennedy placed sixth.

The Trojans, who finished 25-4, were playing in their first state basketball final, but they showed no stage fright against Burns in a game that was never in doubt after the first quarter.  The state title is the school’s fourth all-time, and Kennedy co-head coaches Kerry and Peter Hall said it was the product of years of hard work.

“We’ve worked so hard,” Kerry Hall said. “Blood, sweat, tears, early morning practices. It’s a dream come true and I’m just so proud of these senior girls.”

“It was amazing,” Peter Hall added. “We just hoped all the hard work and sacrifices would culminate on this floor, on this night, and it did. We’re kind of in shock.”

The Trojans were led, as they have been all year, by the experienced senior trio of Susee, Brown and Ratliff. Susee was the consummate floor general, and a threat to score from anywhere on the floor, finishing the title game with 15 points, seven assists.
Ratliff, who finished with 25 points and eight rebounds, was the focal point of the Kennedy attack. She was able to score almost at will around the basket. Brown was the only Trojan to play all 32 minutes. Her harassing and athletic defense helped force Burns into 20 turnovers. Brown did not score but had three rebounds, three assists and two steals.

Also on the Kennedy roster are sophomore Kalyssa Kleinschmidt, senior Mireya Sanchez, sophomore Kaylee Brown, sophomore Hannah Arritola, sophomore Yesenia Gomez, sophomore Molly Jaeger, sophomore Kaylin Cantu, freshman Clarissa Traeger and sophomore Abby Frey.

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