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No. 2 Curtis survives overtime 'boxing match,' beats No. 1 Mount Si in WIAA Class 4A boys state championship

Zoom Diallo's 22 points lock-down defense, Tyce Paulsen's late steal leads the Vikings to the program's first state title since 2013, head coach Tim Kelly's fourth.

TACOMA, Wash. — In the end, it came down to Tyce Paulsen trusting his instinct.

The junior jumped a passing lane at mid court and scooted the to the other end for an uncontested layup to give Curtis a two-point lead with 23 seconds left in overtime.

The second-seeded Vikings held on to win a back-and-forth 4A state championship, 52-49, denying top-ranked Mount Si an undefeated season and a repeat 4A title.

“I just made a basketball play,” Paulsen said. “Read it, and made a layup.”

And what a read, and uncontested layup it was. Especially considering the back and forth nature of the game, which Curtis coach Tim Kelly likened to a prize fight.

Quin Patterson backed down Tyce Paulsen and finished at the rim to put Mount Si up two with 1:09 left in overtime. On the next possession, Curtis guard Zoom Diallo switched onto a defensive mismatch, drove to the hoop and finished a layup that tied the game at 49-49, setting up Paulsen’s game-changing steal and score.

“It was a boxing match,” Curtis coach Tim Kelly said. “It was back and forth. And both teams had some spurts where they executed well, then other times the defense won and we just came up with the last two defensive stops.”

Cam Holliway and Patterson hit back-to-back 3s to take a 42-39 lead with 37 seconds left in regulation to set up Diallo’s final series of points.

“He’s a good player. He’s great at initiating contact and getting to the line,” Mount Si coach Jason Griffith said of Diallo, who was 6 of 10 from the free throw line. “He’s got great body control, a good pull-up and he’s a smart basketball player — he’s understands how to use his body.”

In total, there were 11 lead changes and eight ties. Mount Si’s 8-0 lead was the game’s largest lead.

The win gives Curtis its third title title as a program, its first since 2013. It’s Kelly’s fourth — he won back-to-back at Lincoln of Tacoma in 2001 and 2002 before coming to Curtis in 2007.

Diallo, holding the championship trophy on the court during the postgame celebration, said winning on that stage was something he’d dreamed about since he was a little kid. His older brother, Sindou, when he played for a Vikings team that reached the state tournament.

“I’m just proud, man … everybody doubted us, everybody said ‘Mount Si this,’ ” Diallo said. “We just kept our composure, we stayed in the lab, we worked and it paid off.”

Diallo led a defensive effort keen on pressure, discipline and disruption. He finished with three of the Vikings’ nine total steals on Saturday — Devin Whitten and Trent Williams each had two.

Curtis’ on-ball pressure was persistent, and suffocating.

The Vikings forced Mount Si into 20 turnovers (to the Vikings’ six). Kelly was proud the way his team made plays on the defensive end while their shooting. Stagnated. Both teams shot around 35 percent from the field in the second half.

Him and his assistant coaches barked from the bench that its pressure on the wings would create chance to jump passing lanes and come up with steals.

“We were yelling at our wing … ‘Go get that! Go get that!’ ” Kelly said. “And then all of a sudden, he went and got it. That was very cool.”

Saturday’s loss was Mount Si’s second in three years on the state title stage. The Wildcats swept its way through the regular season, the 4A Sea-King district tournament and the state tournament to get to Saturday.

Griffith said his team bought into the fact that a standout night could come from a one of several players.

The emergence of Forrest, the team’s top defender, and Trevor Hennig, who led the Wildcats in scoring with 17 points per game, elevated even their own expectations in the early goings of the season.

Playing alongside standout 6-foot-9 forward Miles Heide, a Division I prospect, UC San Diego signee Quin Patterson and point guard Bennett O’Connor who started on the state title-winning team in 2020 made game-planning difficult on opposing teams.

Hennig was on the bench in sweats Saturday after suffering season-ending stress fractures in his back the week leading up to the regional round.

“Sometimes the breaks don’t go your way, and that’s what happened today,” Griffith said.

Paulsen recalls clearly watching his brother, Zach Paulsen, lead Curtis in the state tournament. But they never reached the state title game during Zach Paulsen tenure. Zach Paulsen now plays at Seattle Pacific and met his little brother for an elated, emotional embrace on the court during the trophy celebration.

“It’s a dream come true,” Tyce Paulsen said.

---Andy Buhler; @AndyBuhler.