When it comes to Curtis High School boys basketball under coach Tim Kelly, there’s been one common theme amongst his teams each year: defense.
As the Vikings try to claim the 4A South Puget Sound League title this season, that familiar identity Kelly has given Curtis (9-4, 9-0) is ever present led by do-it-all guard Zack Paulsen.
“We talk about that. We do that every day at practice, every day at tryouts – all the time it’s defense, defense, defense at Curtis,” Paulsen said.
Defense first, create turnovers and score off of easy buckets has been the philosophy of the Vikings undefeated run through league this year, putting Curtis in prime position to hang another league banner by the season’s end.
And Paulsen (20 points, 9-for-17 field goals) has been the workhorse this year, providing that necessary spark at times to propel Curtis into winning positions night in and night out, as he did when Paulsen put his team on his back and helped Curtis eclipse Bellarmine Prep, 69-63, in overtime Tuesday night in Tacoma.
“We came out with a lot more energy in the second half than we did in the first half,” said Curtis’ Jordan Parker, who finished with 17 points, including five quick points in the first few seconds of overtime. “The first half was lazy (and) lackadaisical. We just came out and jumped on them.”
After Paulsen kicked a pass back out to Parker in the corner on Curtis’ first series of overtime, the junior iced a three to put the Vikings up 62-59.
Seconds later, Paulsen utilized his 6-foot-4 frame to pressure Bellarmine Prep guard Charles Elzie (17 points) and knock the ball loose for Parker to pick up and sprint to a fast break bucket, 64-59.
If not for Paulsen’s late game heroics against Bellarmine Prep (7-6, 6-3), then there’s a chance Curtis does not walk away with their undefeated league record intact.
“We didn’t do a lot of good things offensively. It came down a lot of time where Zack had the ball in his hands, he was able to make some things happen,” Kelly said. “But I think, again, defensively down the stretch, we got about three or four key stops in a row … and when overtime started, we hit the three right away, and then get the turnover to get a five-point cushion.”
Sophomore guard Jaylen Scott led Bellarmine Prep (7-6; 6-3 4A SPSL) with 25 points.
Curtis, the defending league champions, have now beat Bellarmine in both its matchups this season, so now it switch their focus to the upstart Rogers (10-3, 7-2) on Thursday at home.
A win there will just be more proof that the Curtis way – defense, turnovers and clutch buckets – can lead to so much come February.
“Lately, we’ve been struggling. But once we click, once we turn it on, and do what our coaches say, we usually go on a run,” Paulsen said. “Good things happen.”
C - Z. Paulsen 20, Simms 8, Parker 17, Williams-Byrd 12, Yager 1, McGinnis 7, J. Paulsen 1, Franklin 2, Lewis.
BP - Scott 25, Elzie 17, Horner 10, Davis 9, Ostrander 2, Emerick, Mackey.