Senior forward Brian Zehr helps anchor a Jackson team that is heading to the Tacoma Dome for its fifth straight state tournament. Last season, the Timberwolves finished second at state and Zehr is eager to do whatever he can to get Jackson back to “the big finale.”
Q: The first thing I’ve got to ask about is that big dunk against Stadium (in regionals). Walk me through that. What’d you see? How did that happen?
A: It was great. I kind of saw it from a mile away. I could see Jason (Todd) looking up and my guy turning towards him and I just ran right to the hoop and he gave me an open pass. I just put it in the hoop.
Q: How big was that play for momentum?
A: I think it was a big push. Not only did it give us a lot of momentum, but I think it kind of put their team down a little bit. I think it almost ruined their momentum a little bit and their confidence.
Q: You guys are becoming regulars at Tacoma, what’s it like to get back to the state tournament?
A: It’s always a great experience. Every year is different. Every year is a different team. It’s always new, but always nice. We all have a good amount of experience now. We all know what to expect but at the same time every year it’s going to be different.
Q: Last year you made it to a state title game (a 60-56 loss to Curtis) that you probably don’t want to talk a whole lot about, but how big was that in terms of motivation this season to get back to Tacoma?
A: I think it was big motivation. Not a lot of people get the opportunity to play there. We got a taste of what it could be like. After the game, it’s just brutal. It’s a shot to the heart when you get that far and you make it your whole season and there’s that one-game letdown. I think it was motivation this year to make every game count and treat it like it’s our last one.
Q: With a good portion of that team coming back, how did you guys deal with the expectations this year with such a talented squad?
A: I think we just try and stay focused on every game because once you get your head too big, everything starts going bad. We just try to take small steps until we’re at the big finale.
Q: Is it as tough to shoot in the Tacoma Dome as people say?
A: It’s not easy, that’s for sure. I think it’s a lot harder, personally. After the first game or so I think you get it down. You just don’t get any time to warm up, really, besides five minutes or whatever you’re shooting (in pre-game warm ups). It’s just really different with that huge backdrop.
Q: How has your senior year been?
A: It’s been great! It’s been awesome! There’s been a lot of great memories and basketball is just making it even better. I’m ready to top it off, hopefully. End it with a good run at state.
Q: I’ve got to ask about your big game-winning 3-pointer in the MaxPreps Holiday Classic (in Palm Springs, Calif. that gave Jackson a 53-52 win over Long Beach Poly in the semifinals). Looking back a few months later, has that whole moment sunk in yet?
A: It was so much fun to look at. In the heat of the moment you don’t always have time to look at it for what it is. But three months later, it’s just like, “Wow! That was a great experience!” That was a once in a lifetime thing to happen. It was just a great tournament. We had so much fun.
Q: What’s the best part of the state experience?
A: I would just say the team chemistry, with the camaraderie we have with everyone. Just being able to spend the time with people we’ve been with for the last four years. I wouldn’t rather have it with anyone else. It’s great to play the game we love with each other.
Q: What’s your ideal, storybook ending to this season?
A: Obviously, to cap it off, we all have that one big goal in mind. But I’d just say, play as hard as we can and see what happens when we come out. But ideally, of course, we want to win that state title.
Q: Maybe one more game-winning 3-pointer at Tacoma?
A: Hopefully. That would be nice too.
To read a preview of Jackson’s quarterfinal matchup against Issaquah, click here.