SNOHOMISH — The Jackson girls basketball team got just what it wanted for Christmas: the return of standout guard Kelli Kingma.
Kingma, who missed the Timberwolves’ previous contest, returned to the court Thursday and helped Jackson hold off a charging Everett team 78-74 at the Snohomish Holiday Basketball Tournament.
“I’m pretty happy about that one,” Jackson head coach Mark Haner said. “We had a good halftime lead that we managed to give up. But Everett’s a good team. … We had to weather a little bit of a storm there but I’m happy with the fact that we managed to stick with things and grit it out there at the end.”
Kingma, who didn’t play in the Timberwolves’ game against Auburn Riverside on Dec. 21 because of an undisclosed ailment, was a big part of Jackson’s success Thursday. The senior came off the bench toward the end of the first quarter and made an immediate impact, scoring 17 points before halftime.
The well-rested Kingma finished with a game-high 27 points.
“She’s not the kind of player that’s going to show a lot of rust,” Haner said. “She’s spent enough time working on her game where she’s going to be able to put up points whenever she comes in there. She could do it on 100 days’ rest.”
Haner said he expects Kingma to be back in the starting lineup soon, perhaps even at some point during this weekend’s holiday tournament at Snohomish.
“She didn’t play last week so I just wanted to bring her in and let the game settle down a little before she went out there for her first time back,” Haner said. “But I would anticipate probably seeing her in the starting lineup, if not in this tournament, then when we get back to conference play.”
Behind the play of Kingma, Jackson built a 46-37 halftime lead.
Then Darian Rielly and the Seagulls rallied.
Rielly helped spark an 11-2 Everett run to open the third quarter, with the Seagulls tying the score at 48. Rielly scored 12 of her 23 points in the third period.
“She was huge,” Everett head coach John Low said. “Obviously, at halftime they’re talking about stopping Sidney (Rielly) and then that forces our other players to step up. Darian stepped up. She had some nice drives to the basket, she helped get them in foul trouble and got us to the free-throw line.”
Darian and her sister, Sidney, who finished with a team-high 24 points, formed a 1-2 punch that staggered Jackson a bit.
“That was the best first half of basketball we played all year, but they weren’t going to go away without putting up some shots, and they did that in the third,” Haner said. “… Especially when Darian Rielly’s hitting like that. It really makes it tough because it makes it harder to help when you’re trying to deal with Sidney.”
The game featured the top scorers in both Wesco 3A (Sidney Rielly at 23.4 points per game) and Wesco 4A (Kingma with 26.5).
After the Everett run, the two teams exchanged the lead multiple times in the fourth quarter until Kingma hit a pair of free throws to put Jackson ahead. Sierra Anderson added two more free throws in the game’s final 13 seconds to seal the victory and hand Everett its first loss of the season.
“We came out in the third quarter and dug ourselves out of a little bit of a hole we were in at halftime, and then we just went toe-to-toe with them and traded possessions the rest of the game,” Low said. “It was kind of almost whoever ended up with the ball last.”
Along with Kingma, Jackson (4-1 overall) was led by Anderson, who scored 23 points, and junior Faithaleen Lopez-Flores, who added 20. All three Timberwolves are in the top six in scoring in Wesco 4A.
“The thing that’s nice is you can’t take away any one of the girls on this team. We have a lot of girls that can score the basketball,” Haner said. “Any time we’re passing and moving the ball well, we’re a tough team to guard.
“And that doesn’t even count Imari Clinton (11th in the league at 12 points per game), who’s also scored 20 points in a game this season.”
Low said Jackson was a good opponent for Everett to face early in the season.
“I thought this was a great test for us,” he said. “They’re a team that’s been to state, is battle-tested and has played in Tacoma. We got the opportunity to see how we measured up. I’m pretty happy with how we competed against them.”
The Seagulls (5-1) have a quick turnaround, with a game against Snohomish tonight in the three-day Snohomish Holiday Basketball Tournament.
“That’s another reason why we do this three-day tournament, because if you reach your ultimate goals, you’re going to be playing back-to-back games at some point in the year,” Low said. “This will be a good test. I think the girls were disappointed, but I also think they’re ready to shake it off and come out tomorrow and get the next team.”
At Snohomish H.S.
Jackson 20 26 11 21 — 78
Everett 15 22 21 16 — 74
Everett—Caroline Overstreet 0, Sydney Taggart 6, Darian Rielly 23, Sidney Rielly 24, Tenika Wentworth 7, Julie Ramirez 0, Amber Hagar 12, Katy Hedington 2. Jackson—Faithaleen Lopez-Flores 20, Sierra Anderson 23, Kelli Kingma 27, Imari Clinton 4, Emily Kipp 0, Anna Johnson 0, Drew Locknane 2, Kassaundra Jackson 0, Emily Boyd 2. 3-point goals—Lopez-Flores 3, Anderson 3, Kingma 5, D. Rielly 4, S. Rielly 3. Records—Jackson 4-1 overall. Everett 5-1.