Tim Kelly has been around high school playoff basketball in Washington so long, he has collected a number of battle-cry slogans.
The one he pulled out after eighth-ranked Curtis’ 53-44 victory in the opening round of the Class 4A West Central/Southwest bi-district tournament?
“Win and advance,” said the Vikings coach with a relieved expression painted all over his face.
Curtis (19-2) moves on to face Enumclaw at Rogers High School on Saturday afternoon in the district quarterfinals.
Premium content for only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
Usually, the Vikings wear down teams with defense and balanced scoring. On Thursday night at home, it was relentless, harassing defense that forced 16 Papermakers turnovers.
Curtis did get a big night from Sindou Diallo, who led all scorers with 20 points. John Moore added 19 points.
“We’ve been a lot more balanced, and that is what I like about our team,” Kelly said. “But tonight, we stood more, and did not get the ball moving like we’d like to. But that is our strength — we have different guys who can score in different places.”
It was a mixed bag for Camas (12-9) coming into the matchup Thursday. The good was the Papermakers had won 10 of their past 11 games.
But the bad was that leading scorer Alex Glikbarg (back) was sidelined. And Camas had to travel to University Place after playing a game Wednesday night.
“We wanted to put more pressure on them, which we did,” Kelly said.
The second quarter was near-flawless execution by the Vikings on both ends to erase a 22-19 deficit.
They made eight of 11 field-goal attempts. Diallo was right in the middle of it, too, sandwiching a pair of 3-pointers around a nifty up-and-under move in the key.
Diallo’s two free throws gave Curtis a 33-24 lead with 2:09 remaining in the first half.
After coming out hot — Camas hit five of its first six shots — the Papermakers went the final 4:52 of the first half without scoring.
“They came out hot on us,” Moore said. “But we knew if we kept playing defense the way Coach Kelly taught us, that eventually they would get tired.”
The Vikings had their own cold spell in the second half, going 5:41 without scoring. Fortunately, Camas did not make a big enough dent into the deficit that Kelly and company got worried.
Cooper McNatt’s putback for the Papermakers cut it to 42-35 with 5:33 remaining. But Zack Paulsen buried a corner 3-pointer on the other end for the Vikings, and Diallo scored three baskets in the final 3:48 to put the visitors away.
“I told them, ‘That is why when we are struggling (offensively), we’ve got to keep playing defense, and we’ve got to keep getting stops,’ ” Kelly said.