First at Lincoln High School, and now at his alma mater Curtis, Tim Kelly has racked up 340 coaching wins in 20 seasons of boys basketball.
Bernie Salazar has spent his entire head-coaching career — 18 seasons — guiding the Bellarmine Prep boys team. He has 279 victories.
Yet the two highly successful head honchos will do something today they have never done — face each other in a district championship game.
The champions from the area’s Class 4A leagues — Bellarmine Prep in the Narrows and Curtis in the SPSL — both navigated through the West Central District bracket for three wins, and now are fighting for the No. 1 seed in the regional championships beginning Saturday.
Tipoff tonight at the ShoWare Center in Kent is scheduled for 8.
“It seems like we’ve always had that (meeting) with Bellarmine sometime in districts,” said Kelly, who used to coach against Salazar on a regular basis when he was at Lincoln.
“We are looking forward to it. It’s a great rivalry. Very intense.”
En route to its second consecutive West Central District title last season, Curtis beat the Lions, 48-41, in the semifinals.
This season, the two schools have taken drastically different routes to reach this point. The Vikings have had relatively stress-free victories over Battle Ground, Stadium and Bethel, winning by an average of 19 points.
After Bellarmine Prep pulled away late for a 55-40 home victory over Kentwood in the first round, the Lions had to sweat out their next two wins — watching a last-second 3-point shot by Federal Way clank away in a 48-46 quarterfinal win over the Eagles, then getting a buzzer-beating 3-pointer themselves to defeat Beamer, 59-58, in the semifinals on Saturday.
“We are in a very good place right now,” Salazar said. “We’ve had two great games back-to-back.”
Tonight’s matchup will be about tempo — Curtis will want to run, and Bellarmine Prep will try to control the action in the halfcourt — and how the Lions’ ballhandlers deal with merciless pressure from the Vikings.
If Bellarmine Prep guards Isaiah Flynn, Jacob Salazar and Mar’kese Jackson struggle against the fullcourt defense that counterparts Dominque Jordan, Dominic Robinson, Jayson Williams and Tory Causey should provide for Curtis — it could be a long evening.
“We have to be fundamentally very solid, and very strong with the basketball and strong with our passing and our cuts to get guys open,” Salazar said. “If somebody plays you aggressively, and you become passive, you play into their hands.
“Our guys will be ready for the challenge.”
It is easier said than done. The Vikings have forced a total of 69 turnovers in their three district victories.
“We are playing really well,” Kelly said.Todd Milles: 253-597-8442 email@example.com blogs.thenewstribune.com @ManyHatsMilles