By Eric D. Williams
The word “zone” does not role easily off the tongue of Curtis head coach Tim Kelly, whose teams traditionally play an intense brand of man-to-man defense.
But after No. 1 Garfield’s physical frontcourt totaled 24 points in the paint in the first half, Kelly wisely switched to a swarming, matchup zone in the second half.
“We’ve had it in the back pocket,” Kelly said. “We don’t use it a lot. We’re a man team.
“I was kind of joking that all of these people came to watch Curtis and Garfield go at it today, and they’re were a couple times where we were both sitting in zones.”
Kelly said he switched to zone to try and slow down the Bulldogs with the hope they would become stagnant offensively.
And it worked.
Down by as many as nine points, the Vikings clawed their way back, forcing overtime and escaping with a 70-66 victory over the Bulldogs in the Class 4A semifinals at the Tacoma Dome on Friday.
With the win, Curtis has a chance to earn the school’s second boys basketball title, and first since the Vikings won it all in 1971.
While Curtis players celebrated, a dejected Garfield head coach Ed Haskins was left consoling his best player, Taylor Haymond, as his team left the floor.
Haskins has made four trips to the state tournament during his time as head coach, but has yet to add to the Bulldogs’ trophy case of 11 state titles.
“This one’s been the hardest,” Haskins said. “These kids have worked their butts off all year.”
The No. 5 Vikings (26-2) face another daunting task in the title game – undefeated No. 2 Jackson, who easily disposed of WesCO rival No. 8 Arlington, 68-41.
Down two points with five seconds left in overtime, the Bulldogs (24-2) had one final chance to claim victory.
However, Torrence Baker’s in-bound pass to Haymond was intercepted by Curtis swingman Andre Lewis at midcourt. Haymond was called for an intentional foul on the play, and Lewis drained two free throws to seal the win.