At first, Tim Kelly was pretty uncomfortable with this idea of 3 and D.
At least, not this many 3s.
His Curtis High School boys basketball teams have always had the D in his 11 seasons here. But the 3? His teams have been more apt to beat teams up inside.
But those teams didn’t have these shooters.
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“Oh yeah, for sure,” Kelly said when asked if this team is shooting more 3-pointers than his past ones. “I had to get through that, myself.
“Offensively we are different. We got some guys who can really shoot the ball.”
Take the Vikings’ win over visiting Puyallup on Thursday night. Jordan Parker made seven 3-pointers on his own and Jase Paulsen added four more in their lights-out shooting effort in the 80-59 win over a team projected by many coaches to compete for the 4A South Puget Sound League title with Curtis this season.
Parker scored 19 of his game-high 27 points in the second half and Curtis’ lead got to as much as 25 points in the fourth quarter.
“We have heart, man,” said Parker, a 5-foot-11 senior guard. “We finish strong. If we can finish like that every game of the season, we’ll be atop the league and ready for state.”
It would be four consecutive seasons atop the league for Curtis. And Thursday’s win was 15 in a row for Curtis over Puyallup, with the blue Vikings last losing to the purple Vikings in 2010.
Parker made four 3-pointers in the third quarter and Curtis turned its nine-point halftime lead into a 16-point lead when Paulsen connected from deep with just over three minutes until the end of the period.
Paulsen finished with 16 points and his brother, Zack Paulsen, added 15 points.
“The past couple of games we haven’t shot as well as we should or we do at practice,” Zack Paulsen said. “But tonight it clicked.”
The Paulsens and Parker have taken over the lead roles for Curtis after playing parts in the Vikings’ supporting cast a year ago in the Vikings’ run to a fourth-place trophy in the Tacoma Dome.
So there was some reason to believe this might be somewhat of a down year for Curtis … except that it has opened the season with consecutive wins over Bellarmine Prep, Rogers and Puyallup.
Mostly because there’s still a constant in this program: a hounding full-court pressure defense.
“They just come at you hard,” Puyallup coach Scott Campbell said. “They year’s we’ve had success against them we’ve been able to handle that pressure and attack it. One of two things is going to happen because it’s force meeting force: You’re either going to break the pressure and have transition plays, or the pressure will bother you and you’re in scramble mode. More times than not tonight, the pressure got to us.”
And having these shooters to complement that press might make Curtis a more unique challenge than seasons past.
“(Puyallup was) tired and that’s part of us running,” Kelly said. “We want to go for that reason. If you don’t get back and guard our two shooters, they are going to nail shots. And if they do get back, that’s going to open up everything else in the middle and make teams try to run with us.”
And they did plenty of running in the offseason to prepare for this.
“Man, we’re just always fast,” Parker said. “And it’s hard to see over our hands. We got long players and we’re fast all around. I don’t think another team is as fast as us.”
But it didn’t start that way. Puyallup built a 19-14 lead after the first quarter until Landen Neff and Jacob Holcomb got in foul trouble.
Neff and Jaeden Ingram each had 15 points for Puyallup.
But Curtis took advantage in the second quarter, with the blue Vikings outscoring the purple ones 22-8.
“That’s a tough place to play when you have a good, experienced team,” Campbell said. “And it’s a really tough place to jump in and play with a lot of new guys going through that for the first time.
“And their pressure made us uncomfortable on offense, and they did a great job of shooting the basketball.”
Slow starts have been Curtis’ glaring flaw so far. It trailed 15-5 earlier this week to start the game against Rogers, before escaping with a 62-56 win.
“I was telling our guys they got a bullseye on their chest every night,” Kelly said. “You got to understand that. Even though some of these guys are new, this is Curtis. We’ve won and we’re league champs and we got down the other night and same thing tonight.
“We’re going to be underestimated because we lost a lot of people from last year,” Zack Paulsen said. “But we got people who are going to fight and dog it out and we’re going to win.”
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Puyallup: Cobi Campbell 11, Justin Haase 9, Jaeden Ingram 15, Luke Holcomb 1, Landen Neff 15, Dylan Rhoades 8.
Curtis: DeVante Williams-Byrd 4, Zack Paulsen 15, Jordan Parker 27, Solomon McGinnis 4, Jared Franklin 8, Jase Paulsen 16, Maceo Lewis 2, Amir Simms 4.