Just before the start of the fourth quarter of the Curtis District 3/4 Class 4A Boys’ Basketball Championship game, Curtis’ PA announcer made an announcement in the crowded gym: The team Curtis boys swim had just won the 4A state title minutes earlier. The Curtis women’s wrestling team also made headlines, taking third place at this weekend’s Mat Classic.
And the boys’ basketball team did their part, taking an early lead against Tahoma and never looking back, winning the district title — the program’s first since 2013 — in convincing fashion, 77-56.
Not a bad day to be a Viking.
“It’s exciting,” said Curtis second-year guard Zoom Diallo, who scored a game-high 21 points in the victory. “When you come to Curtis, those are the expectations. It’s really good that we came out, that we played hard. That was one of the goals, that’s for sure. »
Curtis took a 22-8 lead on a straight 3-pointer from Tyce Paulsen in the first quarter and the result was never in serious jeopardy from that point on, with the Vikings keeping the Bears at a safe distance for the rest of the competition. While Tahoma got solid outings from Carson Talbert (19 points) and Adam Davis (15 points), the Bears weren’t able to string together enough saves to close the gap as much as they could. had to.
Curtis’ offense is firing on all cylinders at the perfect time of year, heading into the state tournament at the Tacoma Dome the first week of March.
“It all starts with defense,” said Cinque Maxwell, who scored 19 points for the Vikings. “Defense is the most important part. We have a lot of fast breaks and all that and that really opens up the game.”
Key defenses on Diallo and Paulsen, but Maxwell remains this team’s unsung hero. He has an amazing ability to float along the baseline, get into good positions and score lay-up after lay-up, often unchallenged.
“It’s just movement,” Maxwell said. “No one expects a technically tall 6-1 man to move around the paint and move over there and be aggressive over there. You just gotta keep moving. They don’t really watch me there, because they don’t expect that.
Curtis coach Tim Kelly credits Maxwell’s basketball IQ for his ability, which is hard to describe. It always seems to be open under the hoop.
“He’s really smart,” Kelly said. ” He is very intelligent. He’s a smart kid, one, but he’s a smart basketball player. He finds places to open up. With a 6-1 record, he plays everyone’s big shot. For two years you watch it and I’m sure people watch it and they’re like, ‘Who is this guy?’ And he ends the night and he’s averaging 15 and getting eight, nine rebounds. I attribute it largely to intelligence and finding the right spot. He doesn’t make many mistakes. You tell him one thing, you don’t have to tell him twice. He understands things quickly. »
This winter will be the first opportunity for this core of Curtis players to compete together in the Tacoma Dome State Tournament. Of the five starters, only Trent Williams is a senior. This group was ahead of schedule last year, meeting Olympia in the 4A SPSL Championship match in the final game of the season (the state tournament was canceled due to the pandemic).
They are eager to show the state what they can do.
“It’s exciting,” Diallo said. “We’ve been talking about it ever since I got to first grade. This has been one of our goals. The fact that we have the chance to play there this year, we are very excited. It is a blessing. A lot of teams, their season is over. We’re one of those rare teams to go in-state.
Tim Kelly, as is tradition with the head coach, was the last person to rise through the ranks and cut the net after his side won the tournament on Saturday night. It’s a safe bet that his longtime friend and assistant coach Mark Williams was on his mind, as he has been constantly for the past 24 hours.
The two trained together for nearly three decades. Williams graduated from Washington High School in 1977 and attended Fife and Lincoln, where he coached alongside KElly for 14 years before joining Kelly at Curtis. In July 2012, he was inducted into the Washington Interscholastic Basketball Coaches Association Hall of Fame.
Williams died Friday afternoon after a battle with cancer.
“It’s been a tough 24 hours. Yesterday morning he called me and my wife. He wanted to talk to us early in the morning and say goodbye,” Kelly said, voice cracking and struggling through tears. “He was here last Saturday and he wanted to do everything that we do, he wanted to see us win, get to the state and win a state championship. That’s what he was talking about.”
Williams’ wife, Julie, was present at Saturday’s game. Curtis athletic director Suzanne Vick brought him a vase of flowers after a moment of silence from the crowd.
“I’m glad his family came today,” Kelly said. “I thought it was very cool to have Julie there. A lot of former players were there, both Lincoln and Curtis. A lot of people cared and showed up and I really appreciate that.