EVERETT — With a chance to take a double-digit lead in the final seconds before halftime, the Jackson boys basketball team instead turned the ball over and then had a defensive lapse, allowing Stadium’s Eric Tuttle to bank in an off-balance 3-point shot at the buzzer to pull the Tigers within 27-23 at the break.
It had the potential to be a game-changing sequence. And, in a way, it was.
Roused by those disappointing final seconds, the Timberwolves were determined to seize control in the second half. And boy, did they ever, blowing out Stadium of Tacoma in the third and fourth quarters on the way to a 67-33 victory on Friday night in a Class 4A state regional playoff game at Everett Community.
With the win, the T-wolves advance to next week’s state tournament at the Tacoma Dome where they will try to improve on last season’s runner-up finish.
“Last year we were one (game) short,” said guard Dan Kingma, who led Jackson with 22 points while adding three steals and two assists. “Obviously (winning a state championship) is our goal. We’re on a mission, we’ve all worked hard for this, and we’re glad to get the opportunity to go (to Tacoma) and have a chance to do something special.”
The T-wolves will have another chance at a state title because they dominated the second half of a game that was a back-and-forth battle in the first half. Although Jackson never trailed, it allowed Stadium to trim a 10-point deficit to four in the final 2½ minutes of the second quarter.
“We had a chance to take control of the game at the end of the first half, but we kind of slipped up,” said T-wolves coach Steve Johnson. “But we didn’t panic. And I also think we kind of realized that we could impose our will defensively, and that’s pretty much what we did to start the second half.”
“At halftime we just came together and we were like, ‘We don’t want this to be our last half of the season. We need to buckle down right here,’” Kingma said. “We came out ready to play, we were focused, and I think our intensity coming out after halftime really helped us get a (big) lead.”
Jackson scored the first seven points of the third quarter, and then closed the period with an 11-0 run to lead by 20. And in the fourth quarter the T-wolves continued to pull away, outscoring Stadium 20-6 over the final eight minutes.
“We’ve played pretty well in stretches lots of times this year,” Johnson said, “but that was certainly an example of taking control of a game.”
Highlighting the second half for Jackson was a jaw-dropping play involving Kingma, guard Jason Todd and forward Brian Zehr. After a Jackson turnover, the Tigers tried a long upcourt pass, but the ball was intercepted in backcourt by Kingma. He, in turn, lofted a long pass toward the basket that was caught by a leaping Todd, who then made a midair pass to Zehr cutting to the basket.
Zehr went up and dunked the ball with two hands, and drew a foul, setting off a noisy celebration by the Jackson fans.
At the defensive end, Jackson used a tight, pestering defense that forced Stadium into 29 turnovers and limited the Tigers to a .267 field goal percentage (4-for-15) in the second half.
Another decisive statistic was fouls, with Stadium being whistled for 21 and Jackson just 10. The T-wolves were 21-for-27 at the free throw line, while Stadium was only 2-for-3.
Jackson will find out on Sunday who it will play in its state opener next Thursday, and then have three days of practice to prepare.
“It was certainly a goal to get back to Tacoma,” Johnson said. “Hey, it’s five years in a row going to the Tacoma Dome, and I never want to take that for granted or to not appreciate that.
“But for me personally, I’m excited to coach these guys for three more practices and hopefully three more games. No doubt, (winning state) is the ultimate goal, but we can’t look at it that way. We have to see who we draw, have three great days of practice, and put ourselves in the best position to hopefully be successful.”
At Everett C.C.
Stadium 6 17 4 6 — 33
Jackson 11 16 20 20 — 67
Stadium — Mark Galanesi 0, Blake Budzisz 0, Eric Tuttle 3, Ben Cottrill 4, M. Hillis 0, Jordan O’Connor 0, Robert Bernovich 5, Bobby Moorehead 7, Malik Mayeux 6, Blake Wilcox 0, Lucious Brown 8, M. Walchi 0. Jackson — Nick Hovorka 2, Dan Kingma 22, Jason Todd 13, Brian Zehr 8, Marcus Blake 2, Holden Roberts 5, Connor Willgress 4, Dylan Mitchell 0, Sam Saufferer 8, Blake Ozuna 2, Riley Waite 0, Isaiah Patrick 1. 3-point goals — Eric Tuttle 1, Robert Bernovich 1, Bobby Moorehead 1, Dan Kingma 2, Sam Saufferer 2. Records — Stadium is 15-9, Jackson is 23-1.