Jackson kept plugging away all night with its pressure defense on Lake Stevens.
Those efforts paid huge dividends as the Wolfpack forced key turnovers late in the fourth quarter and the Timberwolves went on to edge the Vikings 65-56 in the 4A District 1 girls basketball championship game Feb. 23 at Jackson High School.
The district title was the second straight for the Timberwolves, who also are headed back to the state tournament for the third consecutive year. Jackson (22-1) finished the season undefeated at home.
“The first thing, I walked into the locker room before the game. I wrote a little quote on the board,” said senior guard Kristi Kingma, who scored a career-high 36 points. “‘No one comes in our house and takes down our nets.’ That was our slogan all year. We didn’t want another team to come in and cut down the net we’ve been playing on all year.”
Winning back-to-back district titles was the Wolfpack’s goal from the start of the season and to accomplish it on their home court was an overwhelming experience for senior guard Ashly Bruns.
“It’s amazing,” she said. “It’s just a great feeling. … It’s awesome to win back to back and just go out and never lose in the den. Kristi played a great game today. We all kind of stepped it up and played tough defense.”
That tough defense shifted the momentum Jackson’s way after Lake Stevens had taken a 56-54 lead on a basket by senior center Karri Gallagher at the 2:38 mark of the fourth quarter.
Following a Jackson missed shot, Lake Stevens got the ball back with a chance to extend its lead but Bruns stole the ball and sophomore guard Erin Feeney connected on her second 3-point shot of the quarter as Jackson took a 57-56 lead. Feeney finished with 12 points.
“She’s a sophomore. She doesn’t play like a sophomore,” Kingma said of Feeney. “She’s got ice in her veins and she’s hit a bunch of shots like that for us this year. It was just phenomenal.”
The Wolfpack defense then forced another turnover that led to two free throws by Kingma, which boosted the Jackson lead to 59-56 with 1:48 remaining. On the ensuing possession, Kingma stole the ball and scored as Jackson continue to build on its lead. The Timberwolves then forced yet another turnover, which led to two more free throws by Kingma and a 63-56 lead with 1:02 to go.
“We were trying to put some pressure on them all night and we finally got our full-court press working,” Thompson said. “Feeney came up with a couple of big shots, Chanel with some steals, and of course, Kristi … she just really carried us. It was just a great team effort all the way around.”
Kingma was cold in the first quarter, missing several shots and not making her first basket until 1:46 of the first quarter.
“My teammates just kept telling me to shoot and eventually it went in,” Kingma said.
The University of Washington-bound guard scored all 14 of Jackson’s final points in the second quarter as the Timberwolves went into halftime down 27-26. Kingma scored 13 points in the third quarter as Jackson took a 48-45 lead into the fourth quarter.
The Wolfpack had trouble containing Gallagher, a 6-foot-3 center, who scored 22 points. Senior Mary Ochiltree (5-11) added 16 points and senior Brittany Tri (6-1) had 15. The undersized Timberwolves battled their taller countparts all night.
“Karrie and Brittany are just awesome and Mary can get them the ball,” Kingma said. “They’re tough to stop. We couldn’t actually stop them. At times it was “Oh my gosh. How are we ever going to beat them?’ I think we were able to just box out. Even if they were missing their shots, we were still able to box out and get the rebounds.” Senior guard Ashley Todd, sophomore forward Dionna Kirton and Bruns did all that they could to keep up with Lake Stevens’ Gallagher and Tri.
“We knew we couldn’t stop them,” Thompson said. “We were hoping to contain them.”
Jackson faced another team with a height advantage in Snohomish in the district semifinals and came away with a victory.
“I think we’ve got huge momentum now,” Bruns said. “We got back-to-back tough wins against a couple of tough teams. We just played really hard and we came out on top. We’re ready for state now.”
Lake Stevens, which is in the opposite bracket, has a shot at winning the state title, Thompson said.
“They’re a great team and for us to be able to beat them in this tournament, it gives us a lot of confidence,” she added. “We have pretty high expectations. Our kids have been there for two years. This is our third consecutive (year). We have our hopes high.”
Said Kingma, “I just want to go out with a bang. All of our seniors, we want to finish our year strong. Obviously, we want that state championship, but we’re just going to play as best we can.”