Electric point guard Dominic Robinson started hot, scoring 10 of his game-high 18 points for the Curtis Vikings in the opening quarter against Newport of Bellevue in a quarterfinal game of the Class 4A boys tournament.
But Vikings coach Tim Kelly understands offense is fleeting, and his team’s stifling pressure defense remains the constant.
“That’s what we do,” Kelly said. “We tell our kids it’s not going to happen all the time right away. It’s a constant for 32 minutes trying to wear people down. And it shows up later in the game.”
Kelly proved soothsayer, as No. 5 Curtis ramped up the pressure in the fourth quarter and ran away from Newport, 62-40, to advance to this afternoon’s semifinals.
The Vikings outscored the Knights 19-3 in the final quarter, and forced 15 of Newport’s 26 turnovers in the second half.
But Curtis isn’t the only team playing tough defense at the Tacoma Dome. The Vikings will face perhaps their stiffest test of the season in perennial state power Garfield.
The No. 1 Bulldogs defeated talent-laden No. 3 Bothell an impressive third time this season, 62-50, to advance to the semifinals.
“It’s tough to beat any team three times,” Garfield coach Ed
Haskins said. “But a team like that — that should have a McDonald’s All-American — that was tough.”
No. 8 Arlington, 72-60 winners over Richland, will meet undefeated Jackson in the other semifinal. The No. 2-ranked Timberwolves fell behind early but rallied to defeat No. 4 Central Valley of Spokane, 55-47.
Kelly is two games away from bringing a state title to his alma mater for the first time since the Vikings’ only state championship in boys basketball in 1971.
But Kelly, who led Curtis to a runner-up finish in 2011, understands it won’t be easy, in what likely will be a grind-it-out affair between two pesky, defensive-oriented teams.
“We’ll do what we do,” Kelly said. “We’re not going to change a whole lot now. Hopefully, they have like six overtimes, and they wear each other out.”
Said Haskins about the contest: “Two words — Dom Robinson. He’s that guy for them. He’s their engine. And hopefully if we can contain some things with him we have a shot.”
Garfield didn’t need six overtimes, but the Bulldogs did have to work hard to get past Bothell, led by UCLA-bound swingman Zach LaVine.
Garfield 6-foot-6 forward Tucker Haymond provided the leadership the Bulldogs needed to outlast the Cougars, scoring 18 of his 20 points in the second half.
“It really came down to our heart,” Haymond said. “And I just really stepped up and wanted to lead our guys — be a big vocal leader. Being a leader really isn’t about points. We’re at state. I’m not worried about points. Getting the win is the most important stat here.”
LaVine, who led Bothell with 16 points, thought the quarterfinal game between two KingCo powers could have been the title game.
“We were thinking that should be the championship game,” LaVine said. “Whoever won that game should pretty much win it all.”
As the only undefeated team in the Class 4A boys tournament, Jackson coach Steve Johnson wanted to avoid the jinx.
But Johnson might have had some anxiety when the Timberwolves fell behind 15-6.
“There was really none of that,” he said. “I thought everyone was pretty confident, pretty poised. We realized we thought that we could play better than we did.”
Jackson battled back to take a one-point lead at halftime, and managed to tame the feisty Bears to move on and face Wesco rival Arlington.
Like Garfield did to Bothell, Jackson will attempt to defeat the Eagles for a third time this season.
“People talk about trying to beat a team three times, and obviously that is hard, Johnson said. “But now the stakes are high, and we know what they do. I’m really happy for (Arlington coach Nick Brown), but we’ll put that aside when we take the floor tomorrow night.”