Ernest Williams is well known for his offense. But it was Williams' work on the boards last night that stood out in a 71-68 victory over No. 8 Curtis in a battle between co-leaders...

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FEDERAL WAY — Ernest Williams is well known for his offense.


And for good reason. The 6-foot-4 junior averages better than 18 points per game for the third-ranked Federal Way boys basketball team.


But it was Williams’ work on the boards last night that stood out in a 71-68 victory over No. 8 Curtis in a battle between co-leaders in the South Puget Sound League South Division. He came up with three big rebounds down the stretch, including one on the offensive end that he turned into a crowd-pleasing jam.


“We needed to get a little bit of intensity so we could get a run, and I felt that would help,” said Williams, who also had plenty of offense with 18 points.


That gave the Eagles a 64-55 lead with less than four minutes to play, but Curtis came back with a run to keep things interesting. An Alex Seymour put-back with 4.1 seconds left cut the Eagles’ lead to 70-67. Then savvy sophomore guard Isaiah Thomas was fouled by Williams during the inbounds play with 3.4 seconds to go.


Thomas, 4 for 4 at the free-throw line in an otherwise dismal shooting night, calmly knocked down the first free throw, but missed the second. Federal Way’s Anwar Asadi got the rebound and was quickly fouled. He made one of two free throws with 2.6 seconds showing. The Vikings quickly called time out and Thomas nearly sent the game into overtime as his shot from beyond half court bounced off the front of the rim at the buzzer.


Thomas, one of the most exciting newcomers in the league who came in averaging 21 points, made his first shot — a long three-pointer — then was just 1 for 15 the rest of the night. He finished with a season-low 10 points. Federal Way coach Jerome Collins credited his defense.


“He was out of his range most of the night,” Collins said.


When the night started, Federal Way and Curtis were part of a five-team logjam atop the SPSL South at 3-1, both coming off Tuesday losses — Federal Way to No. 2 Bethel and Curtis to Puyallup. Each was eager to get back in the win column before the Christmas break.


“This was real important, because we want to be in the running for the SPSL championship,” said Williams, who transferred from Foss.


In the first half, senior Morris Anderson had the hot hand for the Eagles, nailing four three-pointers en route to 15 of his game-high 19 points. He had five of Federal Way’s nine three-pointers.


The Eagles (4-2 overall) played without captain C.J. Green, a senior guard out with a foot injury. Collins said his absence was noticeable late in the game, when they did not take good care of the ball.


“We were shooting ourselves in the foot every time we gained a little momentum,” he said.


Curtis (4-2) trailed by as many as 10 points in the second half. Anthony Gibbs, a 6-5 junior, was a force inside for the Vikings, scoring a team-high 15 points, most of those coming on put-backs. Alex Seymore added 12 points and C.J. Greene 10.


Sandy Ringer: 206-718-1512 or sringer@seattletimes.com