TACOMA – Some suspected the Wesco League’s two qualifiers to the State 4A boys basketball tournament may not have been battle-tested.
That theory was quickly put to rest Thursday by undefeated Jackson and Arlington, which is making its first trip to state in 51 years.
As a result, the hoped-for showdown between Central Valley and Richland will take place in the back side of the bracket, not the front.
Jackson downed Central Valley 55-47 at the Tacoma Dome.
And Jackson (25-0) did it the way CV likes to do it – with defense and efficient offense.
Arlington (22-3) smothered Richland 72-60.
CV (22-3) faces Richland (19-5) for the third time this morning at 10:30 in an elimination game. The best the winner can do is finish fourth.
In the other openers, Garfield stopped Bothell 62-50 and Curtis overwhelmed Newport of Bellevue 62-40.
Jackson 55, Central Valley 47: The Bears appeared on the brink of putting the Timberwolves in a deep hole when Austin Rehkow scored on a backdoor cut and assist from Austin Daines for a 15-9 lead 14 seconds into the second quarter.
But the T-Wolves’ leading scorer, Jason Todd, answered with a 3-pointer.
Jackson coach Steve Johnson said that shot seemed to settle his team.
“If he doesn’t hit that shot and they come down and push the lead to double digits, who knows what happens,” Johnson said.
Jackson chipped away at the Bears’ lead, finally taking their first lead at 24-23.
Adam Chamberlain hit a difficult 6-footer on the baseline to put CV back in front at 25-24 with 23 seconds to go before halftime.
Jackson took a 26-25 lead into intermission when Brian Zehr grabbed a horribly missed 3-pointer for a putback just before the buzzer.
CV junior post Beau Byus, who picked up two fouls in the first half, scored four points to open the second half, pushing the Bears ahead 29-26.
Then Byus was called for his third foul moments later and he sat out the final 5:09 of the period.
“That took away a little bit of offensive rhythm that definitely hurt us and then he picked up his third,” CV coach Rick Sloan said. “Getting Beau into foul trouble really hurt our rotation and depth. That was probably the biggest thing. When you get one guy out of your rotation and you’re not real deep to start with … when you get fatigued you sometimes make mental mistakes.”
The Bears couldn’t sustain any offensive flow the rest of the game.
When Todd drove for a basket with 1:07 left in the third, Jackson took the lead for good at 34-33.
The Bears went scoreless the final 3:13 of the third. Some of CV’s offensive woes occurred when Jackson switched to a 1-2-2 zone.
“It disrupted our offensive rhythm a bit,” Sloan said of the zone.
Jackson extended its lead to 45-35 with 4:54 to go, and CV couldn’t dig out of the hole.
The T-Wolves made 10 out of 12 free throws in the final 3:20 to hold off CV.
“They were a mirror image of us,” Sloan said. “It was a couple of plays here and there. I thought we battled hard. I thought they won it more than we lost it. I told the kids leave here holding your heads high. They had nothing to be ashamed of.”
CV, state runner-up last year, wants to keep playing. That means the Bears will have to avenge a 66-54 subregional loss to Richland.
Chamberlain and Rehkow led CV with 13 points apiece.
Daines had a game-high 11 rebounds.