Slow starts aren’t new for the Blazers, but after falling behind by 11 to Black Hills in the first four-and-a-half minutes Tuesday, what Mike Tafoya’s team wanted was instant offense.
It wasn’t instant, but after three quarters of playing catch-up, the Blazers took their first lead in the first minute of the fourth quarter and hit big shots down the stretch to earn a 61-55 win over Black Hills on the first day of the North Thurston Holiday basketball tournament.
In the second game of the doubleheader, Tumwater built a 24-point lead at halftime on its way to defeating North Thurston.
The tournament concludes today, with Timberline and Tumwater tipping off at 5:15 p.m., followed by Black Hills and North Thurston at 7 p.m.
“I don’t know what it is, but we have to get down by double digits,” Tafoya said. “And all of a sudden, we say, ‘Hey, it’s time to go play now.’ ”
Timberline had 12 first-half turnovers, 10 of which came in the first quarter. Black Hills’ full-court press forced bad passes, and at one stretch, Timberline had five straight turnovers.
Black Hills had an 11-0 lead before Timberline got on the scoreboard with Kole Podowicz’s 3-pointer with 2:22 left in the first quarter. The Wolves’ largest lead was 19-5, before Kevin Russell’s jumper started a 6-0 run by the Blazers.
Timberline outscored Black Hills 14-11 in the second quarter to get to within five at halftime, 24-19.
It was the free-throw shooting that brought the Blazers’ deficit closer in the final 2 minutes of the half. Timberline, which had only six made field goals, converted six free throws in the first half, compared to Black Hills’ one.
The bench play for Timberline made the difference in the fourth quarter.
Four of the five players who finished the game were non-starters and came up strong offensively. Drew Dixon had eight of his 10 points in the fourth quarter, and took the lead for the first time at 41-39 with 7 minutes, 26 seconds left in the fourth quarter.
Tyler Brown, who scored all of his 12 points in the second half, hit two free throws after a technical foul on Black Hills’ Cody Peterson, to give his team its first lead. Austin Kleinhans was the other player in double figures with 11.
“We needed something to get us going,” Tafoya said. “(Brown) has been pretty productive of recent.”
Zeke Baxter, one of the Wolves’ leading scorers, was held to three field goals and 11 points. Kyle Davidson led the Wolves in scoring with a team-best 15 points.
“The story of us all year has been putting the ball in the hoop,” Black Hills coach Thomas Rowswell said. “When our shots aren’t falling, we get down. I thought we had great looks at the hoop and didn’t necessarily turn the ball over.”
Black Hills tied it twice in the fourth quarter, and got as close as three at 52-49 after two free throws by Baxter.
Tumwater 64, North Thurston 49: The Thunderbirds exploded for 31 second-quarter points, racing out to a 41-17 lead at halftime. The Rams overcame a cold-shooting first half and cut the deficit to 13 in the second half at 54-41 after two free throws by Matt Lamolli. North Thurston converted on 15 of 21 free throws, compared to 4 of 6 for Tumwater.
Tumwater had three players in double figures, led by Kyle Warner’s game-high 15. Ben Broeker led North Thurston with 13 and Landon Rushton had 12. It was Rushton’s steal and breakaway layup that started North Thurston’s mini-run to cut the T-Birds’ lead with 5:45 left in the game.