Puyallup High School sophomore guard Jaden Vollmen stepped to the free-throw line Thursday night with a berth to the West Central District playoffs hanging in the balance against the Rogers Rams.
Vollmen wasn’t fazed, sinking back-to-back free throws to extend the Vikings’ lead to 55-52 with 32.7 seconds left in the fourth quarter. Despite several solid looks by the Rams in the final 20 seconds — including a rim-rattling 3-pointer near halfcourt by Marcus Rogers at the buzzer — Puyallup held on to that three-point margin for a key South Puget Sound League South Division victory at the Vikings’ gym.
With the win, Puyallup (12-8 overall, 8-8 SPSL
South) secured the fourth seed to the SPSL playoffs — the league’s seeding tournament to district.
Vollmen finished with a game-high 24 points — the majority of which came on drives to the basket.
“Jaden was great tonight,” Puyallup coach Scott Campbell said. “I thought he played with a lot of poise. He has been so steady for us all year. He got to the basket, made plays and did a great job of handling the ball.
“Jaden is a winner. He just wants to do whatever he needs to do to help the team win. I love that kid.”
Puyallup started off strong, building a 18-5 lead in the first five minutes.
But the Rams (7-12, 3-12) wouldn’t go away quietly.
Senior center Zaequan Satterthwaite, who finished with a team-high 19 points, rallied his team with low-post moves and rebounding in the paint.
Rogers outscored Puyallup, 40-37, in the final three quarters but couldn’t overcome the first five minutes of the game.
“We played as hard as we could,” Satterthwaite said. “We knew we were down. We just battled back to the best of our abilities and showed a lot of heart. We just couldn’t pull it off.”
Campbell said Satterthwaite was a force in the low post.
“I think he is one of the best post players in the league. He’s really good with his back to the basket,” Campbell said. “We kept trying to switch up our defense and give him some different looks. They did a good job of getting it to him. He also is a really good rebounder.
“He’s tough to handle. I’m glad we don’t have to play against him anymore.”
Campbell said watching his youthful squad, which includes five sophomores and three juniors, come through with a district berth on the line is special.
“I think our kids felt a little bit of the pressure of what was riding on this game tonight. We figured out a way to get it done,” Campbell said. “It was a team win. What is really special about this team is how they’ve grown into their roles. They are really comfortable in contributing in that way.”