FEDERAL WAY — Diann Alexander found the perfect way to give husband Corey, the Todd Beamer girls basketball coach, a surprise birthday gift on Friday night.
With just 29.9 seconds left in the title game of the North Puget Sound League tournament, Mrs. Alexander drew up an inbounds play as the timeout clock ran down. The No. 5 Titans went out and executed that play to perfection, getting sophomore Alisaundria Hardwell a wide-open layup that proved to the be the game-winner in a 52-49 victory over the No. 6 Kentridge Chargers.
“Props to Coach D, she drew up that play last minute,” Beamer’s Sharay Trotter said. “We’ve never run that before.”
Kentridge had fully erased a 10-point deficit that the Titans had built with 4 minutes, 29 seconds left in the third quarter. The Chargers (18-4) had taken their first lead since early in the first quarter, 49-48 on Kiernan Denckla’s two free throws with 46 seconds to go in the game.
Defensively, Kentridge focused its attention on that inbounds play under the Beamer basket on Titans stars Trotter and Aaliyah Alexander.
“We told them we were going to switch (off defensively on) everything there,” Kentridge coach Brad McDowell said. “That one little lack of communication does (us) in.”
Nobody stayed with Hardwell on the back side of the key. She came toward the ball and the basket all alone, took the pass and banked in the game-winner with 27 seconds left — just her third and fourth points of the game.
“We knew we had to throw people off,” Corey Alexander said. “We knew they’d follow Aaliyah and Sharay. Ali was left on the back side.”
Kentridge started quickly, taking an early 7-2 lead. But Beamer (19-2), which won its 16th consecutive game, roared back. After the teams played to a 26-26 tie in the first half, the Titans ripped off a 12-2 run to open the third quarter and pulled away to a 38-28 lead on a Trotter putback with 4:55 left in the period.
The Chargers closed the gap to three, 45-42, by the end of the third.
Neither team could score in the fourth until Aaliyah Alexander made one of two free throws with 3:57 to play, part of her nine points. Trotter put the Titans up 48-45 with the final two of her game-high 17 with 2:17 to go.
For the next minute or so, Denckla took over. She scored the last four of her team-high 15 points to get Kentridge the lead back. Denckla also had 12 rebounds, three steals and three assists.
Dayla Ballena shared team-high scoring honors for the Chargers with 15 points of her own.
A rebounding foul with those 29.9 seconds left kept the ball in the Beamer end. Corey Alexander called his final timeout, and his wife, his assistant coach, made sure he and the Titans enjoyed the coach’s birthday.
Both teams will host opening-round games of the Class 4A West Central/Southwest bi-district tournament, which starts next week, against to-be-determined opponents.
No. 5 Auburn (20-3) won the NPSL boys championship by handing Kentwood (13-8) a 50-40 loss in the title game at Auburn High School. Amar Rivers led the Trojans with 17 points.