By David Krueger Herald Writer
TACOMA — It wasn’t the game they thought they’d be playing in, but the Jackson Timberwolves made sure their season continued nonetheless.
Less than 24 hours after getting upset in the 4A state quarterfinals, the Jackson boys basketball team again found itself get off to a slow start. But clutch shots by Brian Zehr – and nine points by Jason Todd in overtime – gave the Timberwolves got a 61-57 come from behind win against Kentridge in a loser-out game Friday afternoon at the Tacoma Dome.
“It would have been easy to fold up the tent and say, ‘This is kind of embarrassing. A few people had us the favorite and now (we go) two and out,’” said Jackson head coach Steve Johnson. “They didn’t panic and I’m really proud to live to fight to get a trophy and get to play one more time to get a trophy on Saturday.”
Just like in their 56-44 quarterfinals loss to Issaquah, Jackson (24-2) surrendered an early lead to Kentridge, which had a 21-6 advantage early in the second quarter and led 28-19 at halftime.
“Wasn’t it the same thing last night? Sure felt like it,” Todd said of the early deficit. “I wasn’t worried. I knew we’re going to come back and fight and do everything we can to put ourselves in a chance to win. Obviously, we didn’t give ourselves in a great start, but we found a way in the end. It was just fun to be a part of a win like this and a group like this.”
The comeback began in the third quarter, when a Zehr basket tied the game at 32. Dan Kingma netted a 3-pointer to give Jackson its first lead of the game moments later.
Kentridge (25-3), led by senior Jawan Stepney who scored 32 points, quickly retook the lead until Zehr made a 3-pointer with 3:22 left in the game to tie the score again.
The senior guard/forward made another 3-pointer with 45 seconds left to get Jackson to within a point in the game’s final minute. Zehr brought the Timberwolves even closer with a free throw to tie the game at 50 and force overtime with less than 15 seconds remaining in regulation.
“It feels great but I kind of just like to play my role,” Zehr said. “In games like that, everyone knew we were trying to go inside to Jason and they were locking up him. My guy would go find him and I’d find myself wide open and I’d just be confident and try to knock it down.”
Todd took over in overtime, scoring Jackson’s first eight points of the period to give the Timberwolves just their second lead of the game. Kingma added a pair of free throws late to seal the win and send Jackson to the fourth/sixth place game Saturday at 9:30 a.m. against Gonzaga Prep.
“I didn’t want this to be my last half,” Todd said. “My other nine seniors deserve more and they deserve the best of me and I just tried to do anything I could to get them another game.”
Zehr, who rolled his ankle in the fourth quarter, finished with a team-high 23 points, just ahead of Todd who recorded a double-double with 20 points and 13 rebounds.
“A really courageous effort by him,” Johnson said of Zehr. He’s kind of injured. We’ll see when the adrenaline runs out, I don’t know about him tomorrow – he kind of turned his ankle. But he gutted it out and made some big shots. …(And Todd’s) a warrior. He cares and he wanted to play one more time. I’m not surprised that he had that ‘refuse to lose’ mentality.”
Johnson was pleased that the Timberwolves were able to respond to a tough loss, with a hard-fought win.
“It’s really hard,” Johnson said. “No disrespect to Issaquah at all. I knew they were a good team. … But we didn’t come here to lose the first game. We came here to win the state championship. Obviously, that’s out the window and to refocus and play a 12 o’clock game is a different vibe but in light of that – and in light of the fact that we fell behind by nine and things weren’t looking too good – I’m really pleased that we didn’t give up and we fought back and got it done.”
Jackson’s 10 seniors guaranteed themselves one more game to end their high school career, with an early matchup against Gonzaga Prep Saturday morning.
The Timberwolves are hoping to end their final game in a Jackson uniform with a win.
“It’s weird at the same time but it’s cool,” Todd said. “Not a lot of teams get to go out on a win. It’s a unique situation.” “I was talking to my brother last night and the biggest thing he said was he went out on a loss. He lost in 2010 to Kentwood and Josh Smith. He went out on a loss in his high school career. I have a chance to do something special and go out on a win.”
At Tacoma Dome
Kentridge 15 13 10 12 7 — 57
Jackson 6 13 16 15 11 — 61
Jackson—Dan Kingma 14, Jason Todd 20, Brian Zehr 23, Marcus Blake 0, Holden Roberts 2, Connor Willgress 2, Sam Saufferer 0, Riley Waite 0. Kentridge—Deon Thomas 0, Jawan Stepney 32, Keasean Kelly 15, Christoph Adams 3, Nick Hopson 0, Hussayn Ford 4, Joe Wainhouse 0, Danny Torlai 3. 3-point goals—Stepney 6, Kelly, Kingma 2, Zehr 2. Records—Jackson 24-2 overall. Kentridge 25-3.