The Jackson Timberwolves team looked like a completely different team after coming out of the locker room for the second half of Saturday night’s 4A state championship.
Jackson kept up with Curtis’ faster pace, outscoring the Vikings 37-29 in the second half. Jackson was able to get to within one point after trailing by as many as 12 late in the third quarter. Unfortunately for the Timberwolves, they ran out of time before they could complete the comeback, with Curtis coming out on top 60-56.
“I think the second half, maybe out of just necessity, we got after it,” said Jackson head coach Steven Johnson. “We just sort of stopped thinking so much and just playing a little bit more. As a result, we got stops, made shots and battled.”
Johnson said there was one play in particular, when junior guard Dan Kingma chased down a loose ball and reached out to push it forward down the court. Connor Willgress sprinted ahead, grabbed the ball and layed it in to get the Timberwolves two points closer to Curtis.
“The one play where Dan flicks the ball out and midcourt and Conner chases it down, I think that epitomized a much better effort in the second half,” Johnson said. “I’m proud of that.”
Jackson played with a bigger sense of urgency in the second half, while the struggles on offense that plagued the Timberwolves in the first two quarters slowly began to subside.
“The key was just coming out and realizing we need to play,” Kingma said. “It’s a state championship game and we didn’t play like we should have in the first half. We just came out at halftime and we said, ‘we’re not that team.’ And we played as hard as we could in the second half. We didn’t worry if we were playing good. We just needed to play hard.”
Kingma gets going
Johnson knew that his point guard wasn’t going to be held down for much longer.
Kingma, who was held scoreless in the first half, made two big 3-pointers in the third quarter that helped jumpstart the Jackson offense as it chipped away at Curtis’ big lead.
The junior finished with 18 points in the title game.
“I knew he wasn’t going to be shut out the whole game,” Johnson said. “He had zero at halftime, which obviously was not boding well for us. Dan’s a competitor. He’s a good player. They did a nice job defensively on him. They’re a good team defensively, overall. But I knew he’d get something going. He wasn’t going to stay down the whole game.”
Johnson and Kingma said the plays weren’t specifically drawn for the guard, he just got the ball and turned it into points.
“I just realized in the situation we just had to get any shot we could, no matter who it was, and I just shot it,” Kingma said.
After the game Kingma, like the rest of his teammates, was very disappointed with the loss. He said the state championship is not a game he’s going to forget anytime soon.
“It’ll definitely stick. Every single day. From now on,” Kingma said. “Got to make sure that 364 days from now that we’re not having this feeling. … I expect to give it our best shot to be back here next year. That’s our goal. All of us are going to work 10-times harder than we did last year and we’re going to come back 10-times stronger, 10-times better and we’re going to be ready to win it.”
Zehr delivers in the clutch
As Dan Kingma struggled in the first half and Curtis keyed on Jason Todd, Jackson junior Brian Zehr was the steady presence the Timberwolves needed in the first half to keep it close.
The post hit all of his shots in the first half en route to a team-high 11 points and grabbed three rebounds to help Jackson stay within striking distance at halftime, trailing the Vikings 31-19. He had three first-half fouls but didn’t pick up any the rest of the game.
In the second half, Zehr hit two big baskets to help fuel Jackson’s comeback. Zehr finished a perfect 7-for-7 from the field, including a big 3-pointer, for 15 points and six rebounds for the Timberwolves.
It’s been well documented that this Jackson team had nine juniors on the roster and only two seniors, leading many to believe this isn’t the last time the Tacoma Dome will see the Timberwolves.
However, those two seniors, Kyle Graff and Derrick Bates, provided quite a bit for their Jackson squad.
“We’re going to miss our seniors,” Kingma said. “People always talk about how we’ve got so many underclassmen, but those two seniors that we had do a lot for us. We’re going to miss them.”
Johnson, who said there wasn’t a whole lot he could say to console the team after the loss, said the young squad was incredibly motivated to send its two seniors out on top.
“There’s not much to say immediately to make anyone feel better,” Johnson said. “I mean the reality is I feel bad for our two seniors. We wanted to get it for them. We do have a lot of young players. We do have a lot of juniors. We can certainly look to the future, and be excited about the future, despite the fact that it’s extremely disappointing right now.”