After trailing by 12 points late in the third quarter, Jackson pulled within one three times in the final period, the last time at 57-56 on a pair of free throws by guard Dan Kingma with nine seconds on the clock.
But Curtis guard Dominique Jordan followed with two free throws to push the margin back to three points. And when Jackson tried to set up a potential game-tying 3-point attempt on its final possession, guard Jason Todd fumbled the ball and Curtis came up with a steal.
Curtis forward Jaurence Chisolm added a free throw with a second to play for the final four-point margin.
It was a heartbreaking loss for the T-wolves, who had been the state’s only remaining undefeated team. Jackson, which brought a 26-0 record into the title game, was bidding to become the 15th undefeated state champion (in the largest enrollment classification) in state history, and just the fifth in the last 30 years.
“I think you have to give Curtis credit, but we did not play well in the first half,” said Jackson coach Steve Johnson. “I’m proud of the fact that we didn’t quit and we gave ourselves a chance to win.”
In the first half “we didn’t play with much recklessness and abandon,” he said. But in the second half “we got after it. We stopped thinking so much and playing more.”
Jackson was led in scoring by Kingma, who shrugged off a difficult first half (no points, three turnovers) to finish with 18 points, including 10 in the last minute and a half.
“Dan’s a competitor,” Johnson said. “He’s a good player. (The Vikings) did a nice job on him defensively in the first half, but I knew he’d get something going.”
Forward Brian Zehr added 15 points and Todd, who shrugged off a second-half left ankle injury to finish the game, scored 10 points to go with nine rebounds.
“I told (Todd) I was proud of him,” Johnson said. “He’s in a lot of pain right now. He was hurt, but he’s a warrior in every sense. Always has (been), always will.”
Jackson’s last play was designed to give Todd a 3-point try, Johnson explained. “We tried to get him running off a double (screen). And he did get the ball running to his right on the 3-point line, which is what we wanted. But in hindsight, trying to get it to a guy on half an ankle … that might be one I think about while jogging.”
Jackson had early leads of 2-0 and 4-2, but then suffered a series of turnovers _ five in the game’s first six minutes _ and five straight field goals by Curtis guard Dominic Robinson, the first a 3-pointer, allowed the Vikings to build a 13-6 lead.
Jackson’s deficit grew to 31-19 at halftime, and it was still in double digits until Kingma swished a 3-pointer from the left angle in the late seconds of the third quarter, pulling the T-wolves within 42-33.
That shot seemed to give Jackson a much-needed spark to start its fourth-quarter rally. The T-wolves opened the period with a 12-4 burst, pulling within 46-45 on a pair of free throws by guard Connor Willgress with just over three minutes remaining.
The Vikings padded their margin back to four, but another Kingma 3-pointer with 43 seconds on the clock made the score 54-53. Once again Curtis pushed the lead back to four before Kingma sank three of four chances at the free throw line and it was one again.
“We talked about at halftime that they were going to come out and make their run,” said Curtis coach Tim Kelly, “(and) they did.”
Jackson, which breezed to Western Conference and Northwest District titles this season, was making its second appearance in the state title game in the last four years. The T-wolves had reached the title game after winning a regional playoff game against Auburn, and then defeated Central Valley and Arlington in Tacoma.
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