TACOMA — An era came to a close for Jackson basketball on Saturday morning. Ten seniors that helped build the Timberwolves into one of the most formidable teams in the state finished their high-school careers with a trophy.
It wasn’t the one they had hoped for, but the fourth-place trophy No. 2 Jackson won after downing No. 5 Gonzaga Prep, 61-44, still held special meaning.
“It’s going to be real weird [next year],” said an emotional Jackson coach Steve Johnson. “I know a lot of people in our program and my son plays for the freshman team, so it’s not like there’s not any connections there. It’s kind of the end of an era. They’ve left a lot for the next group to live up to.”
The Timberwolves (25-2) entered the season as the defending state runner-up, and expectations for a championship skyrocketed after they became the first non-California team to win the MaxPreps Invitational.
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Jackson had just one loss entering the tournament — to 3A Lincoln — but were downed by Issaquah in the quarterfinals. After regrouping following an early deficit on Friday, Jackson avoided being bounced from the tournament by Kentridge. The senior leadership that was needed against Kentridge was again called upon on Saturday.
The Timberwolves found themselves in another early hole against Gonzaga Prep (20-5). Dan Kingma started to find his rhythm, though, and the tide quickly changed. Kingma scored 14 of Jackson’s 16 first-quarter points. That’s when Jason Todd took over, scoring the first nine Jackson points of the second quarter.
Kingma, who will be a preferred walk-on at Washington, and Todd, who will play at Portland, combined for 29 points in the first half. Kingma finished with 22, while Todd added 17.
It was as much as what Jackson did on the defensive end that allowed the Timberwolves to break the game open. Gonzaga Prep managed just two points in the second, not hitting a field goal until there was one minute left in the quarter.
“Obviously we came in here with high expectations,” Johnson said. “To come back and win these next two and get fourth in state, it means a ton.”