Jackson did win the championship, their third in as many seasons, but the game played out much like the first time the teams met. This time the Timberwolves won 58-42.
In no way do I think this disparages what the Eagles have done this season. They have proven time and time again that they are a very talented basketball team and can compete at the state level. If they win their regional playoff game next week, the Eagles will still be among the top eight teams in the state and go to the Tacoma Dome.
What Friday night's game told me, or really what it reiterated was just how good Jackson is.
The Timberwolves are the only undefeated 4A team left in the state and, with respect to all the 4A teams in the state I haven't seen this season, I believe Jackson is the best team in the state. If they aren't, who is? Jackson can do everything that a team needs to do to win a state championship.
Defense -- check.
Score -- check.
Rebound -- check.
You name it, they can do it.
Throughout the season I have had only one concern about the Timberwolves. I thought too much of their scoring came from the same three guys, Brian Zehr, Dan Kingma and of course, their big star Jason Todd. Almost on cue, the Timberwolves started to prove me wrong. Jackson has gotten big performances from other players in all three of their postseason games as they marched through the district tournament. Kyle Graff and Connor Willgress both had big games in the district championship game. Graff's early 3s helped build the lead and Willgress' second-half offensive output helped Jackson put the Eagles away.
The Eagles came out in a triangle-and-two defense to try to shut down Todd and Kingma and Graff quickly shot them out of their defense plan. Gimmicks don't work against this team. I'm not sure if anything does.
I don't want to put any added pressure on the Timberwolves, but I also don't believe anything I say has any affect on how this team plays on the court. That's why the Timberwolves are my pick to finish with a perfect season and win the 4A state championship.
I just don't see any reason why they won't. This is one of the most talented high school teams I have ever seen.
Shifting the attention back to Arlington, I do expect the Eagles to rebound and take care of business against whoever they play in the regional round. Arlington is very good too and they are one bad night against Mariner and two games against Jackson away from being undefeated themselves.
The Eagles can take positives away from both of their games against Jackson. Sure they didn't win either of them, but they had moments in both games where they proved they could play with the Timberwolves. The key for coach Nick Brown and his team is to find out how to sustain those moments.
It is possible the two teams could play again at state depending on how the brackets shape up, but it is more likely Arlington will have solve that problem against other teams at the Tacoma Dome. If the Eagles are fortunate enough to get there, they will find seven other Jackson-like teams that they could face.
There is no shame in losing to Jackson. But I know coach Brown and his players and they don't like it. I expect a very fired up Eagles team to win next weekend and show up at the Tacoma Dome with a chip on their shoulder.
One thing is certain, the state tournament is going to be real fun to watch.
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