Two Class 4A South Puget Sound League teams headed in different directions Saturday night in Olympia.
Curtis High School won its third consecutive boys basketball game, 69-61, behind a game-high 25 points from Seattle Pacific-bound senior Zack Paulsen, and handed host Olympia its third straight loss in the process.
The Vikings (13-4) reversed the outcome of the two programs’ December meeting, in which the Bears won a physical contest on the road in University Place, 57-54. Curtis also extended a huge week that featured a 66-65 overtime victory over Puyallup on Thursday.
“The schedule went Bellarmine, Puyallup, Oly. It doesn’t get much tougher than that,” Vikings coach Tim Kelly said. “It was a big week for us. We kind of played it as a tournament. We won the first won, got the semi Thursday night, and tonight was our championship for the week.”
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The back-to-back wins over their closest competition moved the Vikings into a first-place tie with Puyallup in the 4A SPSL standings at 10-3. Olympia remains tied in the loss column but is a half-game back in league play at 9-3.
“We were really pleased with our effort tonight. The last time we played them, they played harder than we did,” Kelly said.
The game began as if the Vikings might run away with a win, scoring the first eight points, and ultimately building a 13-2 advantage.
“We got some good stops because we were playing hard and that led to some transition baskets,” Kelly said. “That’s what we do. We try to get stops and score in transition.”
Curtis’ lead was 22-12 after starting the second quarter on an inside basket by Josiah Miller and a pair of Paulsen free throws.
“We came out ready to go. We knew we had to win this game if we want to win the league championship,” Paulsen said. “They were a little flat, so we hopped on them early.”
But the Vikings picked up their seventh foul with four minutes remaining in the half. Olympia (10-6) finished the half on a 17-5 run, taking advantage of the bonus for 10 of 11 free throws surrounding a 3-pointer by Dylan Sawyer.
“We kind of let the refs dictate how we played for a while,” Paulsen said.
Sawyer made three free throws after being fouled behind the arc to give Olympia a 29-27 lead at intermission. That’s when Paulsen felt a spark, and the Vikings post-up game began to pay dividends.
“I was a little frustrated myself in the beginning,” he said, after scoring 16 of his 25 during the second half. “I finally decided I wasn’t going to let that take us out of the game. I had to focus up and start making shots if we wanted to win.”
Paulsen tied the game at 29-29 a minute into the second half with a driving layup, only to see Olympia’s 6-foot-9 sophomore Jackson Grant, who finished with 13 points and eight rebounds, give the Bears the lead back with a 3-pointer from the top of the key.
The only two players listed on Curtis’ roster as forwards to play in the game got the lead back.
Jared Franklin, a 6-5 junior, drew back-to-back fouls working inside and made all four free throws, then 6-5 senior Isaac Morrow scored after grabbing a steal to give the Vikings the lead back for good, 35-34, three minutes into the third quarter.
Once Maceo Lewis, who finished with 12 points, nailed the third of his four 3-pointers from the left corner two minutes later to give Curtis a 47-41 lead, it was never again a one-possession game.
The Vikings went up by 11, equaling their largest lead, 3:25 from the end, but Olympia battled back to within six on a 3-pointer by Kai Johnson late in the fourth.
Bears coach John Kiley called timeout with 53 seconds left and began a strategy of intentionally fouling, then looking for 3-pointers on offense. Curtis made 5 of 8 free throws down the stretch, and the Bears didn’t get another triple until Sawyer knocked one down from long range right before the buzzer.
Sawyer led the Bears with 14 points, Kai Johnson equaled Grant with 13 poings while Andrew Lindsay, returning after missing five games with a concussion, fell just short of a double-double, scoring nine points and grabbing eight rebounds.
Meanwhile, Paulsen sees his teammates coming together at the exact right time of the season.
“Everyone is buying in and this is the best time for that to happen,” he said. “When we play together we’re a very hard team to stop.”
C — Shooting: 23 of 48 (47.9 percent). Free throws: 17 of 28 (60.7). Turnovers: 9.
O — Shooting: 17 of 45 (37.8 percent). Free throws: 20 of 25 (80). Turnovers: 16.
C — Bryce Parker 3, Zack Paulsen 25, Jared Franklin 7, Jordan Parker 7, Solomon McGinnis 5, Maceo Lewis 12, Josiah Miller 2, Isaac Morrow 8.
O — Ethan Gahm 8, Alfredo Ramirez-Cortes 3, Dylan Sawyer 14, Kai Johnson 13, Drew Thompson 1, Jackson Grant 13, Andrew Lindsay 9.