By Jeff Linder
CEDAR RAPIDS — Their main objective the last two weeks has been to jell for the postseason.
The Washington Warriors have broken some hearts along the way.
Cedar Rapids Washington played spoiler once again, sidestepping a big performance by Jade Rogers and tripping Class 4A No. 9 Cedar Rapids Kennedy, 61-58, in the Mississippi Valley Conference girls’ basketball finale for both teams last night at Washington High School.
If Coach Frank Howell and the Warriors receive one valentine today, it should come from Dubuque.
Washington (13-7 overall, 11-5 MVC) knocked off former Mississippi Division hopefuls Iowa City High, Cedar Rapids Xavier and Kennedy in a four-game regular-season-ending win streak, enabling Dubuque Wahlert to walk away with the division title.
“Our big emphasis has been to get in position to make a postseason run,” Howell said. “I’ve been very proud of what we’ve been able to do the last four games. We’ve beaten some very good teams in very tight games.”
The Warriors won their last four games by a total of 11 points. And they defeated Kennedy for the 11th straight time.
“We want to win, then keep going and win the next one,” said Ashley Piper, whose eight third-quarter points enabled the Warriors to rally from a six-point halftime deficit and grab the lead for good.
Kennedy (14-6, 10-6) made its own comeback bid late, but fell short. Down eight with 3:34 left, the Cougars had two chances to tie.
Mariah Duke missed a 7-foot runner with the Cougars down 60-58 and 5 seconds left. Piper was fouled and made the second of two free throws with 3.3 ticks to go. Rogers took a long pass and got a good view of the hoop, but missed a 3-pointer from the right wing at the horn.
“We got the ball to one of the people we wanted to get it to and got a nice, clean look,” said Kennedy Coach Dennis Roloff, whose team ended the MVC campaign with three straight losses. “I’m much more pleased with the way we played tonight.”
On the other hand, the Cougars made just 11 of 25 free throws.
Rogers, a junior and a University of Iowa recruit, finished with 25 points and 18 rebounds.
Renesa Smith-Taylor paced Washington with 15 points and six assists. Camille Marie-Lidd added 13 points.
Kennedy led, 31-25, at halftime, but the Warriors stormed back behind four 3-pointers in the third quarter. The last one, by Piper at the horn, put Washington in front, 47-41.
The Cougars got within two points on three occasions in the fourth quarter, but couldn’t completely climb the hill.
Kennedy closes out the regular season at home tonight against Marion. Both teams open 4A regional play next Saturday.
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Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette
Cedar Rapids Kennedy’s Laura Boenish (left) puts the pressure on Cedar Rapids Washington’s Ashley Piper during the fourth quarter last night at Washington High School. Washington won, 61-58.