For the most part, this season has been made up of blowouts and games in which the No. 5 Curtis Vikings have put teams away early.
But coach Tim Kelly and his boys basketball team know the road to the Class 4A state championship will be lined with opponents just as hungry and salivating at the chance to show the Vikings the door.
The Thomas Jefferson Raiders were first in line Saturday night in the state regionals at Puyallup High School.
Curtis (24-2) jumped out to a big lead before needing a late defensive stand to hold off the Raiders, 61-48, and punch a ticket to the state tournament.
“(The game) was a good one because it gave us a test,” said senior forward Andre Lewis, who led the Vikings with 18 points. “It put us back to reality. Everybody is going to come to play, and we’ve got to play our best every game.”
Early on, it had the makings of another cakewalk for Curtis. Isom Brown’s layup off a feed from Dominic Robinson gave the Vikings a 26-5 lead in the second quarter. The lead was 11 points at the half and 14 after three quarters. But Jefferson (14-12) made a push in the fourth quarter, cutting the lead to 50-42 after Daryon James hit a 3-pointer with 5:34 remaining. Curtis calmly responded with a defensive stop and back-to-back buckets to get back on track and finish things out.
“We knew it was going to be tough we talked about having to come out here and earn it,” Kelly said. “You have to face some adversity along the way. You can’t win by 20 every night. This time forward it gets tougher as you go. It’s good to win a game like that and earn it, and do those little things that we did.”
While Robinson (eight points, five assists) had a bit of an off night, the Vikings got a boost from the rest of the roster. Brown (nine points, eight rebounds), Jaurence Chisolm (eight points, six rebounds) and Dominique Jordan (seven points) all contributed.
“Some other kids really stepped up and played great games for us,” Kelly said.
After being eliminated in the regional round last season, Kelly can get his team focused on finishing strong at the Tacoma Dome.
“It’s a relief,” he said of making it out of regionals.
James finished with a game-high 22 points to lead Jefferson.
Arlington 58, Bellarmine Prep 47: Arlington broke a 51-year state tournament drought, running out to a 19-point halftime lead and holding on late against the No. 10 Lions.
Terry Dawn, a 6-foot-5 senior wing, torched Bellarmine for 21 points in the first half on 6-for-9 shooting from 3-point range. The Eagles shot 9-for-16 as a team from behind the arc in the first half while piling up a 39-20 lead.
Bellarmine didn’t go quietly, however, holding Arlington (21-3) to one field goal in the third quarter to cut the deficit to 45-35.
Mar‘kese Jackson’s 3-pointer with 5:04 remaining cut the Arlington lead to 48-39, but the Eagles converted 11 of 16 free throws in the fourth quarter to hold on.
Dawn finished with 29 points and 11 rebounds.
Sefo Liufau led Bellarmine (16-9) with 14 points before fouling out with under a minute to play. Lucas Meikle added 13 points and 10 rebounds.