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No. 2 Curtis jumps on No. 8 Gonzaga Prep, surges into WIAA Class 4A semifinals

Coach Tim Kelly's Vikings are undersized, but not undeterred: 'That’s what we’ve got to do every night. We’ve got to play our quickness against everybody’s bigs.'
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TACOMA, Wash. — The goal really was pretty simple for the Curtis Vikings.

Stick with what has worked all season.

Despite a late rush from Gonzaga Prep in the final quarterfinal of the boys Class 4A state tournament on Thursday night, the Vikings executed on that goal to earn a 67-55 victory at the Tacoma Dome. 

“We’re quick and they’re huge,” Curtis coach Tim Kelly said. “That’s what we’ve got to do every night. We’ve got to play our quickness against everybody’s bigs.” 

The victory propels Curtis (25-3) into a 9 p.m. semifinal date on Friday with Union. The third-seeded Titans earned their semifinal spot with a 57-41 win over Kamiakin. 

The Vikings pushed the tempo against Gonzaga Prep (15-9) at every opportunity, led by their sensational sophomore Zoom Diallo.

(Class 4A WIAA boys Hardwood Classic 2022: Quarterfinal live updates, highlights, photos, top performances, stat leaders)

The 6-foot-3 guard finished with a series of acrobatic field goals during a first half in which he and Bullpups forward Jayden Stevens dueled at each end of the floor.

Playing his first game in the Tacoma Dome, since Curtis had a first-round bye, Diallo fairly evenly dispersed his team-high 24 points for the game, scoring 14 in the first half as the Vikings build a 37-28 lead after the first 16 minutes and following that up with 10 in the second. 

“It was exciting,” Diallo said. “Very exciting. Now that I’m finally here, playing against this competition and for these fans, it’s fun.” 

Diallo had no opportunity to come to state as a freshman due to the Covid-19 pandemic, which forced the cancellation of all state playoffs a year ago. He and the Vikings are trying to make up for that lost time this week.

On Thursday, though Curtis managed to get in front by double-digits in the second quarter, the Bullpups never really went away. Much of that competitive fire came courtesy of Stevens, who dominated things in the paint.

Stevens made 10 of 20 shots against the Vikings, most of them as he powered his way past and through Curtis defenders at the rim, to finish with a game-high 26 points and eight rebounds. Curtis forward Trent Williams match Stevens with the eight boards. 

“I thought he showed so much heart, so much character,” Gonzaga Prep coach Matty McIntyre said of Stevens. “All the way through, whether we were down by 17 or making a run.” 

And the Bullpups did get down by 17, trailing 57-40 at the end of three after Xavier Ahrens made a 3-pointer for Curtis with nine seconds left in the quarter. But Stevens started a run with two baskets in the first minute of the fourth. 

By the time Henry Sandberg buried a 3-pointer for Gonzaga Prep with 2:23 to play, the run had closed the gap to eight, 63-55. It was the last push for the Bullpups, however, as Curtis scored the last four points of the game for the 12-point win. 

“We knew Curtis was going to be a really tough out,” McIntyre said. “It seemed like we were a step slow tonight, but I don’t really even think that was the case. I just think Curtis is that quick. They made us look slower than normal. You just can’t do that against a team as talented as they are.”

---Doug Drowley; @STPWriteNow.

(All photos by Vince Miller)