Sindou Diallo was the Curtis High School boys basketball team’s sixth man last year.
“Now we can’t keep him off the floor,” said his coach, Tim Kelly.
Diallo scored 26 points, contributed to ninth-ranked Curtis’ suffocating team defense and helped lift the Vikings to a 60-51 home victory against Emerald Ridge on Friday.
The win clinched at least a share of the 4A South Puget Sound League title for the Vikings (17-2, 13-2 4A SPSL) — for the third year in a row.
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“Just believing in my teammates,” Diallo said. “They are the reason why I’m here, the reason why I got all those shots.”
And when Diallo wasn’t darting to the basket or dialing up a 3-pointer, he dominated on defense as Curtis limited Emerald Ridge (12-6, 11-3) to 17 points in the first half.
Curtis hounded Emerald Ridge’s guards. Daniel Gregory and Jason Cassens combined for 55 points in the Jaguars’ 71-69 win against Curtis on Dec. 20. And on Friday they combined for 20 points.
“That was the key,” Kelly said. “And we were more focused. Losing wakes you up and they (his players) didn’t like the idea of losing to them last time. So they paid attention to how (Gregory and Cassens) got open and some of the sets they run. We are very familiar with them and they are familiar with us.”
But even with that vintage Curtis defense in the first half — Kelly thought Emerald Ridge should have scored fewer than 17 points. He stomped off the court in a not-so-good mood to deliver his halftime speech.
That’s because Emerald Ridge had nine points with about two minutes remaining in the half.
Then the Jaguars got a 3-pointer from Gregory. And in the final four seconds of the quarter Chase McGuire scored on a layup and Tevin McClain got a steal and a 3-pointer at the buzzer to rid Curtis of all its momentum and cut the Vikings’ lead to 26-17.
Emerald Ridge had scored one point in the second quarter before that sequence.
“They do a good job of really putting great pressure on your guards,” Emerald Ridge coach Pat Mullen said. “They make it real hard for you to get open.”
The Jaguars adjusted in the second half. McClain and Cassens each scored 11 points.
But Curtis broke through offensively. Diallo scored 15 of his 26 points in the second half and John Moore finished with 16 points. Both are seniors.
A Cassens’ bucket cut Curtis’ lead to 51-45 midway through the fourth quarter. But Diallo responded with an and-one and the Vikings cruised from there.
“We shot the ball really well in the first game and they adjusted,” Mullen said. “They put their two best players on our best scorers.
“But one thing I’m really proud of my guys for is they never quit.”
Diallo said Curtis is now the best team in the league because it plays the best defense in the league.
“We have a lot of factors on defense,” Diallo said. “Changed the lineups a little bit — no help on Cassens, don’t let him catch. No help on Gregory, don’t let him catch. That’s pretty much it.”
Curtis can claim the 4A SPSL title outright with a win over Graham-Kapowsin (2-15; 1-12) on Thursday. Emerald Ridge can tie Curtis if the Vikings lose that game and ER beats G-K on Tuesday and then Bellarmine Prep on Thursday.
“Our seniors took a lot of pride in winning this. It’s a big deal,” Kelly said. “We talked about how they had a great opportunity to clinch a league title on senior night tonight and those seniors deserved it. They carried us. I put it on those guys to defend and they all did.”
TJ Cotterill: 253-597-8677
NO. 9 CURTIS
ER: Gregory 9, Boston 4, McGuire 6, McClain 11, Cassens 11, Goodspeed 10.
C: Brown 2, Z. Paulsen 5, Ward 3, Diallo 26, Moore 16, Glaze 8.