The word “zone” does not roll easily off the tongue of Curtis High coach Tim Kelly, whose teams traditionally play an intense man-to-man defense.
But after No. 1 Garfield’s physical frontcourt totaled 24 points in the paint in the first half of their Class 4A boys state semifinal matchup Friday in the Tacoma Dome, Kelly wisely switched to a swarming, matchup zone in the second half.
“We’ve had it in the back pocket,” Kelly said. “We don’t use it a lot. We’re a man(-to-man) team.
“I was kind of joking that all of these people came to watch Curtis and Garfield go at it today, and there were a couple times where we were both sitting in zones.”
Kelly said he made the defensive switch to try to slow the Bulldogs, hoping Garfield would become stagnant offensively.
Down by as many as nine points, the Vikings clawed their way back, forcing overtime and escaping with a 70-66 victory.
Curtis has a chance to earn the school’s second boys basketball title, and first since the Vikings won it all in 1971.
While Curtis players celebrated, a dejected Garfield coach Ed Haskins was consoling his best player, Taylor Haymond, as his team left the floor.
Haskins has made four trips to the state tournament during his time as Garfield’s coach but has yet to add to the Bulldogs’ 11 state titles.
“This one’s been the hardest,” Haskins said. “These kids have worked their butts off all year.”
The No. 5 Vikings (26-2) face another daunting task in the title game – undefeated and second-ranked Jackson, which easily disposed of Wesco rival and No. 8 Arlington, 68-41.
Down two points with five seconds left in overtime, the Bulldogs (24-2) had one final chance to win.
However, Torrence Baker’s inbounds pass to Haymond was intercepted by Curtis swingman Andre Lewis at midcourt. Haymond was called for an intentional foul on the play, and Lewis made two free throws to seal the win.
“We knew he was going to Tucker,” Lewis said. “That was their best player. We knew he was going there. And we just had to keep everyone in front of each other. But I knew I wasn’t letting Tucker get that.”
Curtis’ cat-quick point guard Dom Robinson started slow, missing his first four shots. But the baby-faced assassin heated up in the second half, finishing with a game-high 25 points on an array of nifty drives and floaters.
“It was frustrating,” Robinson said. “They’re the best team that I’ve ever played against, and the toughest game I’ve ever played in. I give credit to them.”
Curtis didn’t take its first lead until under four minutes were left in regulation on a steal and breakaway layup by Tory Causey, who finished with 12 points.
The two teams traded leads three times in the final two minutes.
After Garfield’s Demario Hall made a free throw tied the game at 60, Robinson had a chance to win the game in regulation but lost the ball on a drive to the basket.
Garfield went the other way, but Hall’s 25-foot jumper failed to draw iron.
Haymond, who led Garfield with 16 points, started overtime with a 3-pointer, but Robinson answered with a 3 of his own to tie it.
“Dom didn’t get many shots in the first half,” Kelly said. “But he looked to be more aggressive in the second half, and starting getting more shots. And that was huge. ... You could kind of see it in his face that he wasn’t going to let us go down.”
Curtis grabbed the lead for good, 65-64, on a layup by Causey.
Garfield big man Trevaunté Williams fouled Causey on the play. He missed the free throw, but it proved a big blow for Garfield because it was Williams’ fifth foul. He left the game as the Bulldogs’ leading scorer with 20 points.
Although Garfield controlled things inside, missed free throws hurt the Bulldogs. Curtis finished 25-for-31 from the line, while Garfield went 11-for-20, including 6-for-13 in the fourth quarter and overtime.
The Vikings also had to overcome their struggles from the 3-point line as they finished 1-for-13 from beyond the arc.
“This is our dream,” Lewis said. “This whole season we’ve been working to get to this game that we’ve got (today). Everybody is going to come out and play our hearts out. Leave it all out on the floor.”
4A STATE SEMIFINAL
JACKSON 68, ARLINGTON 41
The Timber Wolves wasted little time in deflating the Eagles’ confidence, jumping to a 44-21 lead and coasting to the team’s third win this season over Arlington (22-4).
Jackson (26-0) shot an impressive 9-for-18 from the 3-point line.
Jason Todd led the Timber Wolves with 20 points and nine rebounds. Teammate Dan Kingma finished with 19 points, shooting 5-for-9 from beyond the arc.
“I’m excited,” Todd said about facing Curtis. “We watched them a little bit. They’re a great team. If you want to be the best, you have to beat the best. And that’s something we really want to do, and I think we’re all really looking forward to it.”Eric D. Williams: 253-597-8437