The clock ticked toward zero and Jerome Collins fidgeted with the state championship ring on his left hand. He had another on his right.
Then the game ended, Christian Jones sprinted from almost one baseline to the other before he leaped and pumped his fist in the air. Ferron Flavors, too, ran across the court in excitement, with his teammates hugging near midcourt.
The 66-54 victory over Kentwood on Saturday at the Tacoma Dome capped the Federal Way High School boys basketball team’s journey to a second consecutive 4A state title — something last accomplished by Ferris (2007, 2008) and Lincoln (2001, 2002).
And with all those rings Collins wore, he said this one will be the sweetest.
“Because it was so hard-earned,” Collins said. “We took everybody’s best shot every night. Every night. We dealt with crowds on the road, we kept our focus, and we reached all of our goals. It’s an awesome feeling.”
The Eagles finished 29-0, capped their season with their third win over South Puget Sound League counterpart Kentwood, and pushed their overall win streak to 43 consecutive games — the second longest in 4A history behind Ferris’ 59-game streak from 2006-09.
“What a journey, what a journey,” said Federal Way senior forward Christian Jones, a University of Washington baseball signee. “Going undefeated, back-to-back — crazy feeling. It’s been a long journey.”
Jones, normally a do-the-dirty-work forward, kept the Eagles in it with his 18 points and 12 rebounds. Flavors followed his game-winning shot to beat Gonzaga Prep in Friday’s semifinals with a game-high 20 points with four 3-pointers.
With them and the rest of the top-ranked Federal Way’s scintillating athletes, it was certainly the favorite.
Kentwood didn’t seem to care.
The Conquerors — playing in the school’s second state title game since winning the crown in 2010 — did not trail in the first half. Junior guard Rayvaughn Bolton scored 14 of his 18 points, Federal Way’s 6-10 forward Jalen McDaniels was in foul trouble, and Kentwood made 52 percent of its shots and zero turnovers on its way to a 29-25 lead.
Darius LuBom’s free throws gave Kentwood a 35-30 lead.
Federal Way followed with a 14-0 run.
It was all kick-started by D’Jimon Jones’ dunk with about three minutes remaining in the third quarter.
Federal Way’s high-octane, high-flying brand of basketball feeds off those sort of things.
“It ignited us a lot,” said D’Jimon Jones, a Washington State University football signee who had eight points and four assists. “I had to do it so I could give my team more energy. I could have layed it up. My legs weren’t feeling right. But I knew I had to get up there and dunk it.”
Federal Way went into the fourth quarter with a 42-35 lead. McDaniels hit back-to-back shots, Christian Jones got a pair of offensive rebounds and putbacks and Flavors drilled back-to-back 3-pointers.
Then the kicker — D’Jimon Jones picked off a pass, hit Flavors on the other end of the court (showing both his cornerback and quarterback skills), who tossed it off the backboard to McDaniels for a two-handed dunk as Federal Way opened a 63-50 lead with a minute to play.
“When we’re running like that and making the right pass, getting transition dunks and transition 3s — I feel like we can’t lose,” said McDaniels, the cousin of former NBA player Juwan Howard and a San Diego State basketball signee.
“We’ve been running so many lines, man. So many transition drills. Everything we do in games, we do in practice.”
Kentwood coach Blake Solomon said he knew his team had to stop McDaniels and prevent Flavors and D’Jimon Jones from getting open threes.
“We did a heck of a job on two of the three parts and Flavors just got loose too much,” Solomon said. “They feed off transition, they feed off the crowd. We took a couple of contested shots that led to long rebounds, and that led to them getting out. We just needed to hold on and unfortunately we couldn’t do it.”
It’s hard to imagine Christian Jones was as much a factor in the game plan as he was in the actual game.
“I don’t think I’m ever in the game plan,” Christian Jones said, with a laugh. “But you can’t game plan for what I do. Because it’s all basically off momentum and off of motion. I do all the dirty work.”
But he fit perfectly into his role for Federal Way. Just like Flavors with his shooting, D’Jimon Jones with his athleticism, junior point guard Marcus Stephens for his ability to create and McDaniels for his rim protection, rebounding and even more athleticism.
All of them started on last year’s title team, which lost WSU-bound guard Viont’e Daniels to graduation, except for D’Jimon Jones.
“This team is so well-rounded,” Christian Jones said. “From D’Jimon going to WSU to play football, me going to play baseball at UW, Jalen going to play at San Diego State, and Ferron going to play basketball at whatever level he goes — this team has to go down as one of the best overall teams in state history.
“Just for all the people that talk about ‘Oh, this Federal Way team is not that good. They play 4A. They don’t get to play (Rainier) Beach and Garfield.’ The win streak speaks for itself. I feel like we really left a legacy.”
Boys 4A State All-Tournament Team
MVP: Ferron Flavors, Federal Way
Ferron Flavors, Federal Way
Darius LuBom, Kentwood
Jalen McDaniels, Federal Way
Logan Adams, Gonzaga Prep
Aushanti Potts-Woods, Curtis
Cameron Cranston, Union
Rayvaughn Bolton, Kentwood
Davonte Sanchez, Gonzaga Prep
Scott Kellum, Issaquah