Senior leadership and maturity on the floor played a major role in the Curtis Vikings’ run to the Class 4A state title last season.
Those elements are missing from this year’s team, but one remains: the hard-nosed, harassing defensive system the program embraces. And that can help win a lot of games.
The senior-less Vikings got just enough offense, and combined it with another strong defensive performance, fueling eighth-ranked Curtis to a 60-49 road victory over Bethel on Friday night in an SPSL South Division matchup.
Curtis (11-1, 8-0 league) hasn’t lost to a Washington state opponent this year. The Vikings’ lone loss came weeks ago at a tournament to a team from Nevada.
“It’s hard especially because of the kind of seniors we had last year,” Curtis coach Tim Kelly said. “We had tremendous leadership, and because of that, a lot of maturity. There are times we lack maturity this year.”
The Vikings escaped with a one-point victory over Bethel in the first game of the season, and Friday night’s contest was close until the fourth quarter.
Nursing a 46-40 lead early in the fourth, Curtis extended the lead on a 6-1 run, getting three straight baskets from sophomore forward Aushanti Potts-Woods. The lanky forward scored on a putback of his own miss and in traffic on a feed from Tory Causey. Then he stole a pass and went the distance for an easy lay-in, pushing the lead to nine points with less than three minutes left.
“I started focusing up and started finishing all my shots,” said the sophomore, who finished with 18 points (9-of-20 shooting), nine rebounds and three steals.
Bethel (3-7, 2-5) cut its deficit to 56-49 on Donte Johnson’s layup with 1:01 left, but Curtis was solid from the free-throw line in the fourth quarter, converting 9 of 11 shots.
“We play hard, and we defend,” Kelly said. “If you defend — our goal is to keep someone under 50 — and if you do that, no matter how many shots you miss, you’re at least going to give yourselves a chance.”
Curtis didn’t shoot particularly well from the field, missing an array of midrange jumpers and some easy putbacks. But Causey (22 points) hit some shots at key moments, and the Vikings tightened up their post defense in the fourth quarter.
“They played hard … they got after us,” Kelly said of Bethel. “We need to learn to be a little more physical on our end, especially inside.”
Jason Williams scored eight points and was a force on defense, blocking two shots and tallying four steals.
“He gives us a whole lot, and it’s not scoring,” Kelly said.
Jamon Jones led the Braves with 14 points and 10 rebounds.