Local Basketball: Red Devil Taking Basketball Talents to God’s Country

Images from a NWAC men’s college basketball game between Centralia College and Lower Columbia College at Michael Smith Gymnsaium in Centralia on Monday, Feb. 11, 2019.

A PIRATES LIFE: Kenya Lorton Prepares for Junior Season After Two Years at Lower Columbia

By Matt Baide

mbaide@chronline.com

Adna Alum Kenya Lorton is taking her sharp shooting talents to some of the best hunting grounds in the country, signing to play basketball at Montana State University-Northern for the next two seasons.

Lorton just completed her sophomore season at Lower Columbia, where she started all 30 games and finished 21st in the league with an average of 14.5 points per game.

“Overall, I think it was pretty good. Given the fact that we had a lot of newcomers and a lot of transfers come in so that was interesting to deal with but obviously, I definitely wanted to go farther than we did so it was a bummer,” Lorton said. “Especially on the game we lost out on, we lost by like 40. Other than that, it was really good.”

While at Adna, Lorton was a three sport athlete, competing in soccer and track as well as basketball. She was determined to play basketball in college and got connected to Lower Columbia through Adna head coach Chris Bannish and former teammate Shanay Dotson.

“She (Dotson) had played with me the year before and she went there and she was talking to me about it and then Chris Bannish, my basketball coach, he also went to Lower Columbia,” Lorton said. “I had a few people around me that, not talked me into it, but told me how it was a great school and everything and then Chad was recruiting me so I just liked the school and the people.”

Her AAU experience helped Lorton become acclimated to the college game quickly, scoring 27 points in her first collegiate game against Okanagan College in a 96-63 win. The Red Devils were 23-9 overall and 13-2 to finish second behind Grays Harbor in the West Region.

Lower Columbia defeated North Idaho 84-63 in the Sweet 16 before falling to Bellevue in the Elite 8, 70-62.

“The main thing that I was worried about was my shot and just making it faster ‘cause I know that obviously, college players are a lot quicker,” Lorton said. “I was just worried about not being able to get my shot off fast enough so that was probably what I focused on the most.”

Playing basketball all year was new to Lorton but she said she enjoyed focusing on just basketball and the time she spent with her teammates.

“We went on a couple team retreats and I feel compared to a bunch of the other teams I’ve played for, AAU and then high school, you don’t really hang out outside of it,” Lorton said. “I feel like at this school, with this team, we always tried to do stuff outside of practices and games. We tried to just get together as a team, so I feel like those are the memories I’ll keep forever. Just the fact that even if we weren’t together on the court, we tried to be together outside so I thought that was really cool.”

She averaged 11 points and shot 36 percent from the field while averaging 28 minutes per game and starting 16 of 32 games in her freshman season.

In her sophomore season, Lorton helped lead the team to a 21-10 overall record and 12-2 as the West Region champions. She scored a season high 29 points against Big Bend on Dec. 15 and had 16 rebounds in a game against Pierce on Jan. 16.

“In high school, I was never a person to rebound. I’d maybe have like two rebounds a game, Bannish would always get on me about it and last year, Chad always got on me,” Lorton said. “I said, ‘I’m a guard, I don’t rebound. I’m small, that’s not my job.’ This year, there were a few games that I had more than 10 rebounds and it was crazy.”

She enjoyed the process during the season, including the NWAC tournament selection show streamed on YouTube.

“It is pretty crazy. I love the part that we would always, before the tournament, get together somewhere. This year, we got together at a coach’s house and we would go over the drawings for each team and who we were playing and I just thought that was so cool because they would go over each team and what they thought their strengths were and their weaknesses were and what they thought you would need to do to play against this team,” Lorton explained. “I just thought that was so cool to be able to just see what the announcers or Kirk (Roland), our athletic director was part of that and see what they thought of the teams. Going to Everett, it’s such a cool gym to be in and obviously, it’s not as big as the Spokane Arena, so it’s not that crazy, but it’s still cool just being able to be in a tournament at the collegiate level like that is awesome.”

Lower Columbia won 68-52 over Skagit Valley in the Sweet 16 before falling to Lane 93-44 in the Elite 8.

Lorton always hoped to continue playing after Lower Columbia and was recruited to go to Havre, Montana to play at MSU-Northern.

“I’ve always planned on playing my full four years after Lower Columbia. Just the fact that I’m not ready to give up the sport, it’s going to be really hard when these next two years are over,” Lorton said. “It’s been a long ride all these years of playing basketball. When I went on my visit, the thing that I liked the most about it was the small town and small school and since I’ve grown up like that all my life, I just really like that aspect of it and how close of a community it is. I’m definitely excited for these next two years at Montana.”

The former Pirate earned her general Associate’s Degree from Lower Columbia and plans on majoring in criminal justice with a minor in psychology at MSU.

It will be her first time living outside of Washington.

“I’m definitely nervous. Being at Lower Columbia, I’ve only been like 40 minutes from my dad’s house so I could come home whenever I want but it’s far enough away,” Lorton said. “This is a 14-hour drive from my dad’s so it’s definitely going to be a little different but I’m definitely ready to get out of Washington for a little bit. I’m excited.”

She is currently working out and practicing during the summer before heading to Havre in the fall. She hopes to average at least 15 points per game and have a winning season at MSU. The Skylights were 13-18 overall and 5-13 in the frontier conference.

“Growing up, I guess I’ve always had dreams of playing in college and going somewhere else,” Lorton said. “I never thought I would go to Montana but I guess we’ll see how it is.”

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