This game was not going to be won on emotions alone.
Kentwood High School boys basketball coach Blake Solomon told his team that when it trailed by 10 points near the end of the third quarter.
“They weren’t going to come all the way back just on emotion,” Solomon said. “They had to execute defensively and offensively.
“And we did that.”
The Conquerors — without two-time MVP Darius LuBom, who fouled out with six minutes to play — stormed back to stun Curtis, 57-55, in the 4A state quarterfinals Thursday, and advanced to the semifinals.
And just like last year, Kentwood dashed Curtis’ state-title hopes in the Tacoma Dome — last year with a 66-59 win in the semifinals.
The Vikings scored six points in the fourth quarter.
“The game was ours,” Curtis coach Tim Kelly said. “We shot ourselves in the foot. We just didn’t do a good job of executing to get better shots than we got.”
Especially in the final 9.5 seconds.
The Vikings’ John Moore, a 6-foot-3 senior forward who scored a game-high 21 points with 11 rebounds, got the ball on a post up with Curtis trailing, 57-55. He turned, faced, drove and passed to Zack Paulsen, whose double-clutch runner didn’t fall.
D’Angelo Minnis missed the front end of a one-and-one free throw, and Curtis took off with 8.7 seconds remaining. Moore caught the ball at the top of the key and tried to go through two defenders for a running shot from a step inside the 3-point line, but he was called for a travel with 0.3 seconds to go.
“It’s something we talked about all year — but you get to this point and it’s one of our Achilles’ heels is executing,” Kelly said. “The game was ours to take. It’s not something someone is doing to us, that’s what makes it frustrating.
“It was totally within our grasp to take control of the game and we didn’t.”
Especially when LuBom exited on an offensive foul. He and fellow standout guard Rayvaughn Bolton combined for seven points.
So Solomon relied on his bench.
Minnis, especially. The junior hit the biggest shot of the game when he stepped out as Bolton found him for a 3-pointer from the left wing, sinking it with 1:07 remaining to cap an 18-3 run that gave the Conks a 57-52 lead.
“He makes plays and he makes shots,” Solomon said.
Even if Solomon would have rather seen Kentwood kill some clock and attack the basket instead of take the quick-trigger 3-pointer.
“I was hoping they were going to run to the rim, but D’Angelo he runs to the three,” Solomon said. “It’s a player’s game and you’ve got to give them the freedom to make plays, and we feel we give our guys the freedom to shoot shots like that.”
Minnis had drilled a Stephen Curry-like 3-pointer from well beyond the line at the first-quarter buzzer.
He said he was watching Curry highlights the night prior.
“I was just watching his highlights from a few games ago,” said Minnis, a 5-foot-9 junior who finished with eight points.
Beau Roggenbach scored 16 points for the Conks, Eli’sha Sheppard added 12 and Armann Gill had eight.
Curtis led 49-39 with 1:43 remaining in the third quarter.
“I trusted our guys,” Roggenbach said. “We all knew we were going to pull this game out. We really came together as a team.
“We just don’t give up. We’ve been down before. We knew if we stayed together as a team we were going to have a chance.”