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CC Hoops: Lorton Shines in Red Devils’ Win

Centralia’s Joni Lancaster (22) lays the ball up against Lower Columbia defenders Shanay Dotson (14) and Kenya Lorton (3) on Saturday during an NWAC West Region women’s basketball game in Centralia.

HOMECOMING: Lower Columbia Starts Hot in 74-47 Rivalry Win Full of Local Connections

By Aaron VanTuyl

avantuyl@chronline.com

In a game with this many local connections there’s bound to be a bit of friendly trash talk, and Kenya Lorton had been hearing it for days.

Lorton, a freshman guard for Lower Columbia, kept her mouth shut when she and Shanay Dotson heard it from former Adna High School teammates Isabella Elwood and Devanie Kleemeyer, both of whom now play for Centralia College. By the time Saturday’s game — Lower Columbia at Centralia in an NWAC West Region rivalry match — rolled around, she was ready.

“Honestly, I told my team I was feeling it today, so they knew I was gonna shoot it every time,” Lorton said. “I was expecting to score a lot, and I was so pumped and had so much adrenaline, I was excited to play. I’ve been waiting for this game for like two months.”

She didn’t shoot it every time — she was credited with one assist — but she made her point early on. Lorton scored 11 of her game-high 20 points in the first quarter, helping the Red Devils build a big lead that lasted throughout their 74-47 win at Michael Smith Gymnasium. 

Lower Columbia’s Kenya Lorton (3) shoots against Centralia on Saturday during an NWAC women’s basketball game at Michael Smith Gymnasium.

“This game, you get the lather going, you get down and you’re playing Centralia at their place, and it’s a big crowd,” LCC coach Chad Meadors said of Lorton. “She quit worrying about things and just went out and played, and when she does that she’s a heck of a player.”

Lorton went 3 of 4 from beyond the arc in the first frame, and Lower Columbia ran out to a 20-3 lead with 4:25 left in the first.

“We played absolutely our best first quarter of the year,” LCC coach Chad Meadors said. “We’ve still got more to give and more to find with this group. We’ve got some really talented players, and they’re learning how to work hard and play together, and once that really hits we could play four quarters like that.”

Centralia, meanwhile, went just 2 of 17 from the field in the first.

“I told my girls, if you make five of those, it’s a different ballgame,” Centralia coach Caleb Sells said. “We got looks, and a big credit to their big kid inside (Hayley Niles), she didn’t give us a lot of super clean looks, but I was awfully frustrated with our not finishing inside.”

The Lady Blazers’ offense picked up in the second quarter, but Lower Columbia didn’t let up, pouring in 23 points in the third to help salt away the win.

Majesty Claybrooks led Centralia with 13 points and added eight rebounds, playing what Sells called one of her best games of the season.

Elwood led Centralia with nine rebounds, Kleemeyer scored 6 points, and Blazer point guard Joni Lancaster — a Rochester product — added 3 points and a pair of steals.

“I was proud of Joni,” Sells said. “They put some tremendous ball pressure on her tonight, and she handled it a lot better than I would have.”

Dotson added 12 points and three rebounds for LCC, taking her average for the season up to 10.3 points a game. The sophomore is also averaging 7 rebounds and 2 assists a night.

Dotson, Meadors said, has been putting in a ton of time working on improving her shot.

“I can’t wait for her to see more success on that, but her go-to is defense, and putting the ball on the ground and getting to the rim and making all the extra plays,” he said. “She’s a 5-11 guard that can get into you, and she just makes a tremendous amount of plays for us. She makes an impact, whether she scores 15 or scores 5.”

Lorton, Meadors said, was stuck playing a bit out of position early on with LCC starter Cherita Daugherty ineligible. She’s started 13 of 17 games for the Red Devils, averaging 12.4 points a game.

“She’s been inconsistent, as most freshmen are,” he said. “She’s had some games where she’s had 3, 4, 5 points, but she’s also put up 27, 28 or 29 on the year, and she had a great game tonight.”

With Centralia product Madi Crews in the Devils’ starting lineup, the three visiting locals helped swell the crowd for the rivalry game, to the point that the admission line stretched out the door and onto the sidewalk a few minutes before tipoff.

“Centralia and Adna really love those three kids, because they’re great people, so we’re fortunate enough to get great people,” Meadors said. “That’s super exciting, to play in front of your home crowd and play in front of people you went to high school with, and it’s just two great communities coming out to support their former players.”

Centralia (7-8 overall) dropped to 0-2 in league play with the loss, after opening West Region action with a loss to Grays Harbor on Wednesday.  

“I told the girls, it’s two games. Five games from now our record’s going to look a lot better,” he said. “It sucks. It’s going to suck today, it’s going to suck tomorrow, but by this time next week we hope to be feeling a lot better about ourselves.”

The Lady Blazers play at South Puget Sound in Olympia on Wednesday.

 

At Centralia

RED DEVILS 74, LADY BLAZERS 47

L. Columbia 27 15 23 9 —74

Centralia 7 18 12 10 —47

Lower Columbia (74) — Dotson 12, Abbott 18, Crews 3, Niles 7, Daugherty 6, Lorton 20, Howard 2, Wheeler 6

FG: 28 of 61 —.459 FT: 6 of 7 —.857 Reb. 30 (Wheeler 7)

Centralia (47) — Howard 8, Kleemeyer 6, Smith 6, Lancaster 3, Elwood 5, Connally 6, Claybrooks 13

FG: 16 of 56 —.286 FT: 13 of 20 —.650 Reb. 35 (Elwood 9)

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