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AARON WASSER; For The Olympian |
LACEY – As one of two seniors on a young River Ridge High School basketball squad, Joel King will be relied upon heavily by the Hawks this season.
He answered the call and then some Wednesday night at Timberline.
King beat both the buzzer and the Blazers with a 3-pointer as time expired to lead Class 2A River Ridge over stunned 3A Timberline, 50-47.
“It’s our first game together as a whole team,” said River Ridge coach Jeremy Landram, who had just six players at his disposal in the Hawks’ season-opening loss. “We had enough tonight to pull out a win against a very good team.”
With 2.9 seconds left, King took an inbounds pass, dribbled once, and went up just to the right of the top of the key. With a man in his face, he threw up a shot and then hit the deck. The crowd filled him in on what happened next.
“I couldn’t even see it,” King said. “I shot it and I fell down and all of a sudden everybody started cheering and I knew it went in.”
King earned applause even if his game-winner didn’t find the bottom of the net. The 6-foot-3 guard scored a game-high 25 points which, for those not quick with math, was good for half of River Ridge’s offensive output.
The Hawks (1-1) probably never should have required King’s heroics. They went up by four points, 47-43, following an old fashioned three-point play from King with 1:18 left to play. The Hawks maintained that edge until Kole Podowicz brought the Blazers (0-3) back to within two after a pair of free throws with just 14.3 seconds left.
On the ensuing inbounds, River Ridge, in an attempt to avoid Timberline’s foul attempts, played a game of keepaway that backfired when Quinton Sison stole the ball and threw up a miss that somehow found Dominque Woods, who sank the lay-up and tied the game with 3.6 seconds left.
The next inbounds play went much better for the Hawks and put an end to a difficult night for the home team.
Podowicz averaged 17.5points per game last season and is the Blazers’ leading returning scorer. But his night was brief as he took his second foul with 2:53 to play in the first quarter and then a seat until the third quarter. The 6-5 forward added fouls three and four late in the third quarter and was used sparingly until the fourth. Podowicz finished with six points on 2-for-7 shooting.
“We can play without him, but he’s a great asset to have,” Blazers sophomore forward Drew Dixon said. “We can stay in the game without him, but if he would have been in at the start of the game it would have been a whole lot different.”
Senior Alec Beal’s nine points paced the Blazers. Dixon added eight in what was an evenly distributed Blazers offense.
King got some help from fellow senior Ray Neal, who battled some foul trouble of his own. The big post put in 11 points, while Brad Wallace added nine huge points for the Hawks. With River Ridge down three with 4:25 to go, the freshman went on a tear, scoring five straight, including an absolute prayer of a reverse that gave the Hawks a short-lived 42-41 edge with 3:34 to play.
It was a big win for a young River Ridge team that isn’t quite sure what it’s made of yet.
“We have so many young players and to get this win is a good building block for our season,” King said.