By Rich Myhre Herald Writer
TACOMA — In one of the biggest games of his promising young career, Jackson’s Brett Kingma hit one of his biggest shots.
And considering the stakes, not to mention the degree of difficulty, it was certainly one of his best.
In the final seconds against Decatur on Thursday night, Kingma rose between three defenders for a spinning, off-balance 3-point try from the top of the key. He was fouled on the arm as he jumped, but he followed through and made the shot — and then added the free throw — for a four-point play to give the Timberwolves a thrilling 58-54 victory at the 4A state boys basketball tournament in the Tacoma Dome.
Kingma’s shot went through with 1.8 seconds on the clock. After the free throw, Decatur had time for a meaningless inbounds pass that was intercepted by Jackson guard Marshall Massengale, setting off a joyous celebration on the court by all the T-wolves.
The victory, on the heels of Wednesday’s thriller which was won in the final minute, moves Jackson into a semifinal showdown at 7 p.m. tonight against defending state champion Federal Way.
“Unbelievable,” said Steve Johnson, Jackson’s head coach. “It’s so exciting. We get to play in the state semifinals.
“Obviously Kingma is capable of doing some amazing things,” he went on. “He flung one up there, and then we got a double bonus when the ball goes in and they called a foul. … When push comes to shove, great players make great plays, and they make coaches look smarter than maybe they really are.”
Kingma finished with a game-high 25 points, but until the final few seconds he did not have a sparkling offensive game. He made 11 of 26 field goal tries, but just one of his first 10 3-point attempts and only one of three free throws.
“I thought I shot pretty well inside the 3-point line,” Kingma said, “but outside I’ve been struggling a little bit. But like everyone always says, if you’re a shooter, keep shooting. And make the one that counts.”
The T-wolves started slowly and trailed 14-5 late in the first quarter, but crept back with a strong second period and eventually pushed to a 29-25 halftime margin. Neither team was able to break away in a back-and-forth second half, with the biggest lead for both clubs four points.
And yes, there were other heroes for Jackson. In a fourth quarter when every point counted, guard Ryan Todd stepped up and went 6-for-6 at the free throw line. Teammate Austin O’Keefe had an early layin and later scored with putback after an aggressive offensive rebound.
But Decatur matched the T-wolves almost shot for shot, and two free throws by Gators wing Jerron Smith made the score 54-54 with 33 seconds to play.
With the shot clock off, Jackson worked the ball on the perimeter to set the last shot. The ball ended up in Kingma’s hands with four seconds showing, and he immediately jumped, twisted, aimed and fired.
An official’s whistle sounded as the ball was in the air, meaning at least three free throws. But the high, arching shot swished cleanly, sending the T-wolves and their fans into a frenzy.
“I honestly don’t know what happened on that shot,” said a grinning Kingma. “I just tried to elevate, and I knew I got fouled, but I just tried to stay strong and focus on the rim.”
“I thought we defended him as well as we could, except we fouled him,” Decatur coach Kevin Olson said. “But the credit all goes to Kingma. He hit a hell of a shot. … There’s not much more we could have done. The kid made a miraculous shot.”
Johnson, who admits he is “criticized sometimes for giving (Kingma) freedom” to shoot so often, said he was pleased his team had the poise to manage the clock and the ball in the waning seconds.
“We did a nice job of holding the ball for the last shot instead of doing something stupid and giving them the ball to beat us,” he said. “So we were rewarded for a little execution there at the end. But obviously you can execute all you want, but if a guy doesn’t make an amazing play it doesn’t do any good.
“And he made an amazing play. I can’t think of a better one than that.”
At Tacoma Dome
Decatur — McCloud 19, T. Williams 7, Hunter 7, Oliver 4, Smith 13, A. Williams 4. Jackson — Kingma 25, Todd 6, Massengale 5, O’Keefe 11, Gilchrist 4, Wishko 7. 3-point goals — Hunter 2, Smith 2, Oliver 1, Kingma 2, Wishko 1. Records — Decatur is 18-10. Jackson is 22-4.