For the most part, this season has been made up of 20-point blowouts and games where the Curtis Vikings have put teams away early.
But coach Tim Kelly and his players know the road to the Class 4A state championship will be lined with opponents just as hungry and salivating at the chance to show the fifth-ranked Vikings the door.
The Thomas Jefferson Raiders were first in line on Saturday night in the 4A state regionals at Puyallup High School. Curtis (24-2) jumped out to a big early lead before needing a late defensive stand to hold off the Raiders, 61-48, and punch a ticket to the state tournament.
“(The game) was a good one because it gave us a test,” said senior forward Andre Lewis, who led Curtis with 18 points. “It put us back to reality. Everybody is going to come to play, and we’ve got to play our best every game.”
Early on, it had the makings of another cakewalk for the Vikings. Isom Brown’s layup off a Dominic Robinson feed gave Curtis a 26-5 lead early in the second quarter. The lead was 11 points at the half and 14 after three quarters. But Thomas Jefferson (14-12) made a push early in the fourth, cutting the lead to 50-42 after Daryon James hit a 3-pointer with 5:34 left. Curtis calmly responded with a defensive stops and back-to-back buckets to get back on track and finish things out.
“We knew it was going to be tough …we talked about having to come out here and earn it,” Kelly said. “You have to face some adversity along the way. You can’t win by 20 every night. This time forward it gets tougher as you go. It’s good to win a game like that and earn it, and do those little things that we did.”
While Robinson (eight points, five assists) had a bit of an off night scoring wise, the Vikings got a boost from the rest of the roster. Brown (nine points, eight rebounds), Jaurence Chisolm (eight points, six rebounds) and Dominique Jordan (seven points) all contributed solid efforts.
“Some other kids really stepped up and played great games for us,” Kelly said.
After being eliminated in the regional round last season, Kelly can now get his team focused on finishing strong at the Tacoma Dome.
“It’s a relief,” he said.
James finished with a game-high 22 points to lead Thomas Jefferson.