Call it ugly, or even a bit schoolyard.
But don’t call it ineffective.
For many seasons under coach Jackie Thomas, the Curtis High School girls have made a living winning gritty, low-scoring basketball games — especially late in the season.
Chalk up another one Thursday. The Vikings overcame a slow start to put away Tahoma, 45-32, in the opening round of the Class 4A West Central/Southwest bi-district tournament at Curtis High School in University Place.
Kaelin Williams-Kennedy, a 5-foot-10 senior forward, poured in a season-high 20 points for the Vikings (16-6), who move on to play Auburn Riverside in the district quarterfinals on Friday at Stadium High School.
“She hasn’t had a game this season like that,” Thomas said. “And I think it was, ‘Hey, I am a senior … and I have to give it everything I have.’ She is a really talented player.”
Tahoma (17-5) jumped out to a 7-0 lead before the Vikings gained any traction on offense. They scored the next 10 points, and it was a nail-biter the rest of the first quarter.
And in the second quarter, Curtis’ fullcourt pressure forced 11 of the Bears’ game-high 23 turnovers.
“We got up in their speed,” Tahoma coach Pete DeBolt said. “That just fueled their fury.”
After Kaelan Shamseldin sank a 3-pointer midway through the quarter for the Bears to score her 1,000th career point, the visitors went cold, going scoreless in the final 4:36 of the first half.
At one point, Tahoma turned it over on five consecutive possessions. And Williams-Kennedy tallied six points for Curtis in the final 3:17 — the final one on a layup with 35 seconds remaining to give the Vikings a 24-20 lead.
“We stopped gambling on defense,” Thomas said.
Curtis opened the second half on an 11-4 run in the first 6:35, capped by Jalaya Frederick’s long 3-pointer, to extend its lead to 35-24.
“Defense is what drives us,” Williams-Kennedy said. “That is our go-to.”