Jackie Thomas is used to teaching her players the lessons, not the other way around.
She loves the potential of her balanced Curtis High School girls basketball team — with two senior posts, three young guards and a bench she’s not shy to use. But when they entered district play last year, they caught Thomas trying to look too far ahead.
Not this time.
Curtis pulled away in the fourth quarter for a 44-34 win over visiting Bethel on Thursday to advance to the second round of the 4A West Central District tournament, turning a two-point third-quarter lead into a 10-point victory.
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The Vikings (16-6) are 13-0 this season against teams from the 4A SPSL South. They advance to face Gig Harbor at 7:45 p.m. Saturday at Auburn Mountainview for an automatic berth to the regional round of the state tournament for the second consecutive year.
But Thomas insists she’s not looking ahead any further than to the first quarter of Saturday’s game. Curtis returned its entire team from last year, when it took the third seed out of the district tournament before losing to eventual state champion Gonzaga Prep in the regionals.
“We started so young — when they were ninth- and 10th-graders,” Thomas said. “When we started looking too far, it got too overwhelming for some. They taught me that last postseason. So that’s really been our focus all season — one game at a time, one quarter at a time.”
Sophomore point guard Jalaiya Frederick scored a game-high 13 points for Curtis, senior forward Cedrice Howard added 12 and junior guard Kaelin Williams-Kennedy had 10.
Bethel had 18 of its 29 turnovers in the first half, but took a 26-24 lead with 4 minutes, 15 seconds remaining in the third quarter when A’Shia Donahue scored underneath (one of Bethel’s few clean looks in the paint).
But Frederick answered with a 3-pointer on the next possession.
Curtis led 31-29 at the end of the third quarter, but scored the first seven points of the final period. It held Bethel (11-10) to five points in the fourth quarter (the same as in the first).
“We only play that defense sometimes. We need to play it more often,” Howard said. “Our motto is our defense is our offense. We play good defense, we play good offense.”
Tianna Brown, a sophomore who was named the 4A SPSL South’s most valuable player for the second consecutive year, led Bethel with 11 points.
“This was a rough game,” said Bethel coach John Ainslee, who was frustrated with the officiating. “They are very aggressive. They hold, they grab, they do anything to get the ball.”
Bethel heads to the consolation bracket, and plays Rogers in a loser-out game at 1:45 p.m. Saturday at Mt. Tahoma.
4A WEST CENTRAL DISTRICT
At Gig Harbor 63, Rogers 51: Jessi Westering scored a game-high 24 points, but it wasn’t enough for the Rams as the Tides used a big third quarter to advance.
Gig Harbor (14-6) trailed 24-22 at halftime, but limited Rogers (13-10) to six points in the third quarter and held on from there behind Tessa Waage’s 17 points.
The Tides can secure a trip to the state tournament for the first time since 2006 with a win against Curtis on Saturday.
At No. 3 Todd Beamer 75, South Kitsap 33: Talk about a fast start.
The Titans have outscored their past two opponents 45-2 in the first quarter and cruised past the Wolves to move a step closer to repeating as district champions.
Nia Alexander and Makenzie Bond each scored 14 points for Todd Beamer (19-2), which led 22-2 after the first quarter. The Titans were up 23-0 after the opening period in their SPSL title win over Curtis last week.
Jahpera McEachin added 11 points and Makenna Woodfolk had 10 for the Titans, who advance to play Olympia at 6 p.m. Saturday at Auburn Mountainview with an automatic berth to the regional round of the state tournament on the line.
Kaylee McEdward had 11 points for South Kitsap (10-10), which plays Federal Way in a loser-out game at noon Saturday at Mt. Tahoma.
Olympia 69, at Federal Way 37: Leave it up to Jenna Randich to turn a 10-point lead into a 28-point advantage.
The Olympia senior scored a game-high 25 points as the Bears ran past the Eagles.
Randich paced Olympia on a 23-5 run in the third quarter, scoring 14 of her points — including eight within one minute.
“We got out in transition a lot more, and when I’m able to run the floor, I can get easy baskets,” Randich said. “(By) the third quarter, I know how their defense plays, and I’m kind of always able to figure it out.”
At Bellarmine Prep 64, Tahoma 50: McKenzie Alton scored 24 points and the Lions overcame a first-quarter deficit to advance.
Bellarmine Prep (15-6) trailed 15-12 after the first quarter, but exploded in the second quarter, outscoring the Bears 25-10. The Lions will face Kentridge at 6 p.m. Saturday with an automatic berth to the regional round of the state tournament at stake.
Adyson Clabby scored 13 points, Kaelan Shamseldin had 12 and Lily Knutson 11 for Tahoma (14-8), which plays Emerald Ridge in a loser-out game at 3:30 p.m. Saturday at Mt. Tahoma.
At Kentridge 52, Emerald Ridge 14: The Chargers didn’t allow more than six points in any quarter. And they left no doubt about their trip to the second round of the district tournament.
Junior guard Taylor Jenkins scored 12 points and sophomore Morgan Gary added 11 as Kentridge held Emerald Ridge to a season low and raced to a winner-to-state game against Bellarmine Prep.
Kentridge (17-5) allowed as many points in the second half (six) as it did the second quarter, and won for the seventh time in its past eight games.
Anyae Douglas scored a team-high four points for the Jaguars (9-12).
At Puyallup 35, Timberline 31: Sophie DeWitt scored 12 points as the Vikings edged the Blazers for the second time this season.
Puyallup (16-8) has held each of its past four opponents to fewer than 40 points, and advances to a winner-to-state game against sixth-ranked Kentlake at 7:45 p.m. Saturday at Auburn.
Sara Bowen led Timberline with 12 points. But coach Tim Borchardt said his team didn’t executive offensively.
“It kind of boils down to everybody executing,” Bordchardt said. “That’s why we lost because everyone wasn’t executing.”
The Blazers will face Kent-Meridian in a loser-out game at 5:30 p.m. Saturday at Mt. Tahoma.
At No. 6 Kentlake 53, Kent-Meridian 29: Sydney Peterson scored 16 points and Aniston Denckla added 11 as the Falcons jumped out to a 21-point lead after the first quarter and cruised from there.
Peterson, a junior guard, was selected as the 4A SPSL Northeast’s most valuable player this season. Denckla, a sophomore forward, earned that honor last year.
Kentlake (18-4) has won 14 of its past 15 games. It led 25-4 after the first quarter and 40-10 at halftime.
Savannah Lackey had 19 points for Kent-Meridian (12-11).
Kevin Manning and Lauren Smith contributed to this report