By Tom Kendra
Special for Second Half
RAVENNA – As Zara Weber explains it, part of growing up in Kent City is learning how to properly shoot the basketball.
“They start us young at camps, working on our form and things like that,” said Weber, one of two senior starters for Kent City (18-4), which rolled over Holton 55-13 on Wednesday and into Friday’s Division 3 District Final against Muskegon Western Michigan Christian at Ravenna.
“They get us started, and then it’s up to all of us to put in the time. We spend a lot of time in the gym. A few of us made it our goal to shoot 10,000 3-pointers over the summer.”
So, for Weber, the 3-pointer that she made late in the first quarter on Wednesday was just another shot – but it was also the shot that tied the team state record for most 3-pointers made in a season.
It was fitting that the record-breaking trey, which came less than a minute later, was made by a reserve, senior Janelle Krueger – because all of these Eagles can shoot.
“Almost every girl on the team can shoot it,” said 10th-year Kent City coach Scott Carlson, who knows something about scoring as the all-time leading scorer in school history with 1,263 career points. “I don’t think the record really mattered. We knew we were getting close. I just have a great shooting team.”
Kent City, which was ranked No. 8 in the final Associated Press Division 3 poll, finished with eight 3-pointers on Wednesday, pushing its season total to 244 – and breaking the old record of 237 triples by Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central set in 2005.
The boys state record is 356 by Whitmore Lake in 2009-2010.
Carlson did not make a big deal about the state record. The game was not stopped after Krueger’s record-setting shot, and no announcement was made; in fact, most of the Eagles did not know until after the game.
Earlier this year, Kent City broke the state record for 3-pointers in a single game, making 25 in a home win over Holton. Kent City had the previous record of 23 in a single game, set during the 2012-2013 season, when current assistant coaches Kendal Carlson and Aleah Holcomb were on the roster.
How do they do it?
The Eagles’ motion offense normally features four players spotted up at different points along the 3-point arc, with players taking turns driving and kicking it back out to one of those players, who are always ready to shoot. KC shoots 32 percent from 3-point range and averages 11 treys per game.
The “big three” for KC all season long has been Weber and sophomore standouts Jenna Harrison and Kenzie Bowers – who have all made more than 50 3-pointers this season. The other starters for the Eagles are sophomore Audrey Dreyer and senior Lauren Freeland, an all-state track and cross country standout who will run at Michigan State next year.
“Shooters got to shoot,” explained Harrison, who led all scorers on Wednesday with 13 points, including two 3-pointers. “We know that we have to shoot if we are open; that’s the way our offense works. If the defense comes out on us, then we have to drive.”
The Eagles know their games will keep getting tougher, starting with Friday’s District championship game against Western Michigan Christian. If the Eagles prevail, it could set up a blockbuster Regional Semifinal matchup at home Monday against top-ranked Pewamo-Westphalia.
“That’s the game everyone in town is talking about, but we’re just taking them one at a time,” Harrison said.
The Eagles’ outstanding season has been a pleasant diversion for Carlson, who has experienced more family tragedies resulting from car crashes than any one man should ever have to endure.
In 1989, his younger brother Todd was paralyzed in a car accident. One year later, his younger sister Shannon was paralyzed and suffered a closed head injury in a car accident. In 2009, his mother, Jane, died in another car accident (Todd lost his right leg in the same accident).
Then last August, Todd – who served as an assistant coach for the Eagles and helped run Kent City’s youth basketball program for 15 years – died in yet another crash at the age of 49.
“It’s been tough because he was such a big part of this team,” said Carlson. “I’ve learned you just have to keep going forward. Basketball is something we have always had to focus on and work on.”
Tom Kendra worked 23 years at The Muskegon Chronicle, including five as assistant sports editor and the final six as sports editor through 2011. E-mail him at [email protected] with story ideas for Muskegon, Oceana, Mason, Lake, Oceola, Mecosta and Newaygo counties.
PHOTOS: (Top) Kent City’s Jenna Harrison lines up to shoot a 3-pointer against Cedar Springs during a Feb. 19 win. (Middle) Mikayla Loew (21) looks for an opening around the perimeter. (Photos courtesy of the Kent City athletic department/Sue Harrison.)