A Juneau youth recently helped deliver a high school state basketball championship to her adopted Lower 48 team.
Kendyl Carson and Prairie High School, a public school just across the Washington border from Portland, won the Class 3A Washington state title earlier this month. Prairie defeated Mt. Spokane (Mead) 37-35 in the championship on Saturday, March 2, at the Tacoma Dome. The Prairie Falcons were victorious the two previous days against Edmonds-Woodway (Edmonds) and Kamiakin (Kennewick).
“That was the big goal of mine of just giving my teammates confidence to win one game at the Dome,” said Carson, who played junior varsity her sophomore season due to Washington transfer rules. “It’s a dream come true because we actually got three wins in a row and that was the most those kids have ever won in the Dome.”
The 16-year-old was born and raised in Juneau and played the 2016-17 season for Juneau-Douglas High School. Before her freshman year was up, Carson moved to the Puget Sound area to play on the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) circuit. She ended up staying in Washington the following year, moving in with an aunt and uncle in Battle Ground.
“My parents wanted me to stay down here and play basketball and live with my aunt so I can get more competition for high school and a little bit more exposure,” said Carson on Wednesday from Juneau, where she is spending a rare week away from basketball.
The Prairie Falcons varsity team went 21-5 last year with Carson watching from the sidelines.
She injected energy and positivity to the squad this year, and with Carson on board, the Falcons entered the state tournament 22-2.
“She kind of let the game come to her,” Clark County Today prep sports reporter Paul Valencia said. “She never took over games and part of the reason is she had two senior teammates who were D1 signees and a third senior who was a four-year varsity player. But she locked it down on defense, was always great on defense and her passing skills are above and beyond.”
The Juneau native said it was “crazy” to be playing in the Tacoma Dome, one of the largest indoor arenas in the country, for the Big Dance.
“I never thought I would be playing there,” she said. “I had a lot of family there, I had a lot of support from the community around here. I have a lot of people from Juneau who were watching me on TV and recording it and all that stuff so it was a very cool moment. I would have never changed it for the world.”
Only one Prairie player — senior forward Brooke Walling — scored over seven points in the low-scoring championship game. Carson was held to four points after scoring 23 in the Falcons’ 67-62 win over Kamiakin (Kennewick) in the semifinals.
“They were up seven at halftime then we picked up our defense,” Carson said. “We shut down their best player to five points, we stopped Jayda Noble, we finally started boxing her out and getting boards and getting more possessions. We held them to nine points the whole second half and that allowed us to just sneak by and outscore them by two.”
Carson said her ultimate goal is play Division I basketball at a school with a strong nursing program.
That dream isn’t too farfetched, either.
Carson averaged 17 points and eight rebounds during the state tournament.
After finishing this school year, Carson said she plans on returning to JDHS for her senior year, a move that would make the Crimson Bears the prohibitive favorite to win the Region V Basketball Tournament.
In the meantime she’ll play another year for the AAU team, “Tree of Hope,” which competes in the Elite Youth Basketball League (EYBL).
• Contact sports reporter Nolin Ainsworth at 523-2272 or email@example.com. Follow Empire Sports on Twitter at @akempiresports.