SNOHOMISH — When planning for Friday night’s 4A boys district 1 championship game, Arlington head coach Nick Brown prepared for Jason Todd, Brian Zehr and Dan Kingma.
He failed to consider Kyle Graff and Connor Willgress.
Graff scored 12 points, all in the first half and Willgress scored 14, including 10 in the second half, to lead Jackson (23-0) to a 58-42 win and the 4A District 1 championship.
Arlington came out in a triangle-and-two defense to attempt to slow down Todd and Kingma, but Graff’s three first quarter 3-pointers shot the Eagles right out of their defensive plan.
“I just wasn’t thinking about it. I just let it go and hoped it was going in,” Graff said after the game.
The Timberwolves shot 44 percent in the first half and held the Eagles to just 29 percent shooting. It was enough for Jackson to build a 30-16 lead at halftime.
“We shot the ball poorly and I think that’s a big thing,” Arlington head coach Nick Brown said.
Even with the poor shooting, the Eagles kept it interesting in the second half. They never allowed Jackson to pull away and closed the deficit to as little as eight points in the final quarter. But it seemed every time the Eagles would get close, someone for Jackson would make a big shot.
Perhaps the biggest answer the Timberwolves had was after Terry Dawn’s 3-pointer cut the Timberwolves’ lead to eight with just under six minutes remaining in the game. Jackson head coach Steven Johnson called his only timeout of the night and set up a play for his best player.
“We did a nice job at eight points,” Jackson head coach Steve Johnson said. “They were definitely making a run, Dawn hits that 3 and then we did a nice job of getting the ball inside to Jason and he obviously made a great play. You can tell your kids to get the ball inside to a certain player, but he’s got to go inside and make a six-foot left-handed hook over somebody. It’s pretty easy for me to say it; it’s another thing to do it.”
It is shots like that in key situations that have helped the Timberwolves to an undefeated record going into regionals. Johnson said being undefeated doesn’t add any pressure as the team moves on in the postseason.
“If there is (added pressure), what can we do about it?” Johnson said. “There is nothing we can do about it now. So I’m going to say no because there is nothing we can do about it. I’ve had a lot of people ask me that and I’m like, ‘well, are we supposed to lose one on purpose?’ I don’t know. It’s been a weird deal. It’s obviously a good problem to have.”
If being undefeated doesn’t add a target to their back, Friday’s win gave the Timberwolves their third consecutive district championship.
“It feels great,” Johnson said. “I feel so privileged and humbled to get to coach such great kids and great players. I’m so appreciative of all the people who have helped build the program up at the youth level and select level. A lot of people have bought in to try and achieve excellence.
“I can’t remember to many Wesco teams since I have been around that have ever done this before. Or, for that matter, any district. Rarely does someone win a district three years in a row.”
After two of the Eagles’ three losses this season have come at the hands of the Timberwolves, Brown is convinced of how talented they are.
“They are the best,” he said. “They played better than us tonight and I think they were a better team than us tonight. But I do think maybe one time out of ten or whatever it is that … Tonight they were the better team. Is there a night where we could be? I would like to think so. This is my team and I’m going to believe in them. But they aren’t just good, they are phenomenal.”
Aaron Lommers covers prep sports for The Herald. Follow him on twitter@aaronlommers and contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. At Glacier Peak H.S.
Jackson 6 10 14 12 — 42
Arlington 16 14 13 15 — 58
Arlington — Kaleb Bryson 2 , Terry Dawn 19, Gavin Smoke 1, Shawn Adams 2, Nathan Aune 0, Noah Jones 14, A.J. Passalaqua 4, Ryan Walker 0, Bradey Brummel 0, Nate Lewis 0, Russell Smithson 0, Jeremy Bishop 0. Jackson — Kyle Graff 12, Dan Kingma 4, Jason Todd 14, Brian Zehr 14, Marcus Blake 0, Derrick Bates 0, Connor Willgress 14, Blake Ozuna 0, Sam Saufferer 0, Holden Roberts 0, Nick Hovorka 0, Riley Waite 0. 3-point goals — Dawn 1, Graff 4, Kingma 1, Willgress 2. Records — Arlington 20-3 overall, Jackson 23-0.