MILL CREEK — At some point in the next month, the season will come to an end for the Jackson girls basketball team — and so, too, the high-school careers of both Kelli Kingma and Sierra Anderson.
Tuesday night, sophomore Imari Clinton showed the future of the program is in good hands.
Clinton scored 11 of her 15 points in the fourth quarter to help the Timberwolves rally from a 12-point, third-quarter deficit and defeat Snohomish 63-57 in the opening round of the 4A District 1 Tournament.
“She could be an amazingly dominant player,” Jackson head coach Mark Haner said. “She’s going to be a fantastic player for a long time to come. The biggest thing with her is just not deferring, playing with confidence and understanding she’s got the ability to do what she’s capable of doing out there. She just kind of decided in this game, ‘OK, I’m just going to take the reins off and go.’”
Clinton’s 3-pointer with 6:38 to play in the game not only trimmed the Panthers’ seven-point lead down to four on the scoreboard, it clearly changed the game’s momentum.
After a Kingma free throw put Jackson within three, Clinton was fouled on a drive with a chance to get her team closer than they had been since the second quarter. Her two free throws got the Timberwolves to within one. A little more than a minute later, Clinton came up with a steal at half court and scored to give the Timberwolves a lead they didn’t relinquish.
“We focused on doing this for us and our team and trying to get to state,” Clinton said after the game. “We focused on our team a lot and made plays for each other.”
While Haner is excited about the future with Clinton, both of them are much more focused on what the Timberwolves can accomplish in the present. They can advance to the state-regional round and the district championship game with a victory over Arlington on Friday.
“I know she’s going to be an amazing player for us for a long time,” Haner said. “The biggest thing is more for the present, the here and now. We’re going to need her if we’re going to make a run.”
Playing without junior guard Faithaleen Lopez-Flores, who is out for the remainder of the season with a knee injury, Clinton’s points are even more paramount.
“I actually score my points for Faith,” Clinton said. “She’s like my best friend, so I do this for her to make sure she’s known.”
A little more than halfway through the second quarter the Timberwolves led 25-19, but sophomores Madeline Smith and Madison Pollock helped the Panthers close the half on an 11-0 run to take a 30-25 lead at the break. Smith scored six and Pollock scored five during the run.
Snohomish continued to build its lead in the early moments of the third quarter behind the two sophomores until Haner had seen enough, calling a timeout with 5:46 to play in the period. Twenty-four seconds later he had seen enough again, calling another timeout. And two minutes after that, he called another.
“We just needed to make sure we were playing defense to our rules,” Haner said. “We kept giving them the same look. We weren’t helping very well. Madeline Smith is an unreal player and we have to make sure we put a lot of focus on her and we weren’t really focusing as far as helping the way we need to.
It took three timeouts, but Haner’s message finally got through to his team and it finished the third quarter strong.
Pollock hit a 3 early in the fourth quarter to give the Panthers a 48-40 lead, but it was all Timberwolves from there. Kingma and Clinton sparked the rally and Pollock went down with a leg injury for Snohomish.
“I thought up to that point we’d executed well and gotten good shots,” Snohomish head coach Ken Roberts said. “She went out and we had one less ball-handler on the court and they took advantage of that.”
The Panthers turned the ball over several times and Jackson took the lead.
Pollock was able to return to the game with 1:51 to play and her impact was felt immediately. After a made free throw, she broke the Timberwolves press and found teammate Hannah Berntson open in the corner. Berntson pulled up for a 3 and drew a foul. The shot went in, Jackson’s Anna Johnson fouled out and Berntson made her free throw to complete the four-point play and tie the score.
The play didn’t seem to faze Kingma, who fired back with a 3-pointer of her own on the Timberwolves’ next possession. Kingma had struggled offensively for much of the game, but made two 3s in the fourth quarter, when she also scored 10 of her 18 points.
“Snohomish is one of the best defensive teams in the state,” Kingma said. “Their coach is awesome. He knows how to really stop you. I thought my shots weren’t falling, but we were getting good looks and my teammates were hitting which was so awesome just be able to come down and hit them. Then in the second half and the fourth quarter, I knew that we had to win and I just wanted to do anything I could to help our team win.”
Aaron Lommers covers prep sports for The Herald. Follow him on twitter @aaronlommers and contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
At Jackson H.S.
Snohomish 10 20 15 12 — 57
Jackson 14 11 13 25 — 63
Snohomish–Katie Brandvold 0, Hannah Berntson 10, Shaylee Harwood 5, Callie Harwood 2, Madison Pollock 17, Madeline Smith 17, Bailey Armbruster 6. Jackson–Sierra Anderson 21, Kelli Kingma 18, Olivia Miller 0, Imari Clinton 15, Emily Kipp 2, Anna Johnson 2, Drew Locknane 0, Emily Boyd 5. 3-point goals–Berntson 1, S. Harwood 1, Pollock 3, Anderson 1, Clinton 1, Kingma 2. Records–Snohomish 9-12. Jackson 16-5.