Highlights: Marcus Stephens' late heroics lift Federal Way past Curtis to district title
Marcus Stephens made one shot in the fourth quarter.
It came just before the buzzer.
And it figured that the only player who has started on each of the Federal Way High School boys basketball team’s back-to-back 4A state title wins would be the one to hit the game’s biggest shot.
Stephens’ 3-pointer sent the game into overtime and one more extra period later the fourth-ranked Eagles had completed the double-digit comeback for an 82-79 victory over No. 6 Curtis in the 4A West Central/Southwest bidistrict semifinals on Thursday at Mt. Tahoma.
Stephens scored 11 of his 16 points in the fourth quarter and the two overtimes.
“I was like, ‘We got to win this game,’ ” Stephens said. “We got it to overtime, now it’s 0-0 — we got to win this game.”
This matchup didn’t mean anything as far as postseason implications go. Both Federal Way and Curtis are ranked in the top eight in the WIAA’s RPI rankings, so their wins last weekend in the district quarterfinals guaranteed them spots in the Tacoma Dome.
But pride and a chance to advance to the district title game were apparently more than enough motivation.
“Whenever we’re on the floor, we want to win,” Federal Way coach Jerome Collins said.
Curtis coach Tim Kelly will have his players working on free throws until the regional round of the 4A state tournament begins Feb. 24.
The Vikings made 26 of 42 shots from the charity stripe.
With less than 10 seconds remaining in regulation, Curtis’ Sindou Diallo made the first free throw but missed his second to keep the Vikings’ lead at 64-61.
Stephens raced the ball up the floor, hit Etan Collins at the top of the key and rubbed off him to create space. He took the ball back, released the game-tying 3-pointer and watched as it rolled around the rim and in.
Collins said that’s not the Stephens he always sees.
“Sometimes he’ll make you want to pull your hair out,” Collins laughed. “Sometimes he can get out of control and he’s got to find a way to settle down and read the defense.
“But he came through. … And that’s what we need down the stretch — we are going to need leadership.”
Stephens, who played at Curtis as a freshman, opened up the first overtime with another bucket, giving Federal Way — which has won 66 of its past 67 games — its first lead.
Curtis’ Nate Ward hit one of two free throws with 7.7 seconds left in the first overtime to tie the game, and Federal Way’s Palofino Jatta missed a runner as time expired to send it to a second overtime.
Tashon Brown’s 3-pointer cut Federal Way’s lead to 81-79 with 12.9 seconds remaining in the second OT. Stephens made one of two free throws, and Brown had one more look from the corner to try to send it to a third overtime, but the ball rimmed out at the buzzer.
It was a game Curtis had led 36-25 at halftime. And it came after last season, when Curtis lost to Federal Way, 63-61, for the 4A SPSL title and 65-62 for the district title.
“They are the best team in the state, two-time state champs and we’ve had them right there the past three times we’ve played them,” Kelly said. “And tonight we really had them.
“That’s how close we are and that’s the message we had in the locker room. We got to do things better and we will.”
Curtis had five players score in double figures, led by Diallo’s 19 points. Ward and Brown each had 13, and Zack Paulsen had 12.
Federal Way had six players score in double figures, led by Malcolm Cola’s 16 points and 11 rebounds. Rashon Slaughter had 14 points, Jaden McDaniels had 13 and Jatta 12.
Cola, the 4A NPSL Olympic MVP, was a big reason why Federal Way chipped away at Curtis’ lead thanks to his work on the offensive glass. However, Collins said the Eagles missed opportunities to find the 6-foot-5 forward more often in the post against Curtis’ shorter frontcourt.
“Did we ever,” Collins said. “Did we ever. We got to take advantage.”
Federal Way (23-1) advances to face Kentwood — the team that ended its 4A state record 63-game win streak by a 69-59 score on Feb. 4 — for a shot at its third consecutive district title at 6 p.m. Saturday at Puyallup.
“It was just a total team effort,” Collins said. “They had a lot of adversity to overcome. … They showed me a refuse-to-lose attitude and that’s what I like.”
No. 3 Kentwood 75, No. 2 Union 71: To put the Titans away, you have to really put them away.
And Beau Roggenbach did that with his offensive rebound and putback in the final minute to give the Conquerors a two-possession lead and lift them to a district-title rematch against Federal Way.
Kentwood (23-2) avenged a 76-69 nonleague loss to Union earlier in the season. Both teams are guaranteed spots in the Tacoma Dome because Union is ranked No. 1 in the WIAA’s RPI rankings and Kentwood is No. 5.
“We heard people talking on the outside that with the RPI we are kind of set where we are and these games don’t really matter,” Kentwood coach Blake Solomon said. “But we took it as a challenge. We wanted to play the best and we wanted to compete with the best and we felt we didn’t play our best the first time we played them. Our guys all week were ready to go.”
Union will play Curtis in a game that doesn’t have any postseason implications other than to act as a state tuneup game at 7:45 p.m. Saturday at Mt. Tahoma.
2A WEST CENTRAL
Clover Park 64, River Ridge 46: Davien Harris-Williams scored a game-high 32 points and had 12 assists as the Warriors clinched their first trip to the state tournament since 2013 — when UW’s David Crisp was their starting guard.
And Harris-Williams filled up the box score much like Crisp used to do, hitting six 3-pointers as Clover Park halted River Ridge’s streak of 10 consecutive state playoff appearances.
“He’s one of the best players in our league and it showed tonight,” River Ridge coach John Barbee said.
TJ Cotterill: 253-597-8677
C: T. Brown 13, Z. Paulsen 12, N. Ward 13, Franklin 1, Moore 6, J. Paulsen 15, Diallo 19
FW: Stephens 16, McDaniels 13, Nnanabu 5, Collins 6, Jatta 12, Colla 16, Slaughter 14
KW: Huerta 9, Bolton 17, Roggenbach 19, Gill 3, Sheppard 7, LuBom 20.
U: Shepard 6, Reznick 5, T. Combs 17, Lamcy 3, Lewis 6, Gamble 14, Cranston 20