“I told Elijah he was as valuable to this team’s success as Donaven Dorsey, if not more,” said Thomas, comparing Sanders with the gifted Dorsey, one of the state’s premiere juniors. “Elijah’s a senior, and that’s huge for us. He’s a captain and has embraced his role.”
While Dorsey is the Blazers’ explosive multi-dimensional, highlight-reel player, Sanders does all the heavy lifting in the paint.
Both were needed to put away Yelm.
Sanders scored 16 points and pulled down 11 rebounds, Dorsey added a game-high 17 points, and Timberline used a strong fourth quarter to pull away from the Tornados for a 54-39 non-league victory at the North Thurston Holiday Tournament on Thursday.
“We’re not the biggest team,” Sanders said, “but we always want to be physical.”
Sanders’ play down the stretch proved to be critical as Timberline (4-3) closed the game on a 14-3 run, holding Yelm without a field goal for the final 51/2 minutes.
Kollin Crown, who scored 12 points for the Tornados, hit Yelm’s only field goal in the fourth quarter, cutting the deficit to 40-36 with just under 6 minutes to play.
Thomas quickly called a timeout and had just one thing to say to his squad.
“He said go inside,” Sanders said. “We don’t usually have a size advantage, but tonight we did and we wanted to start pounding it down low.”
A Sanders bucket kick-started the deciding run for Timberline, fueled by Dorsey’s 6-for-8 shooting from the free-throw line in the fourth quarter. The Blazers also got eight points from Tyler Gartner and seven from Chase Ryan.
Dale Sullivan joined Crown as the high-point man for the Tornados with 12 points.
Both teams return to play tonight – Timberline against Tumwater at 5:15, and Yelm taking on host North Thurston at 7.
North Thurston 78, Tumwater 61: Ande Grantham scored eight of his game-high 24 points during a key 14-0 run in the third quarter to power the Rams to a victory over the visiting Thunderbirds.
North Thurston (2-5) reached a season high in points and overcame a 3-point barrage from Jayden Croft. Tumwater’s leading scorer, Croft had 20 points, including five 3-pointers, topped by his three in a row during a one-minute span late in the second quarter.
North Thurston led 24-12 after the first quarter and 40-25 on a Tru Hicks layup with 21/2 minutes to play in the first half. But the hot-shooting Croft helped Tumwater trim its halftime deficit to 44-36.
David Cooper followed another Croft 3-pointer with one of his own to cut the T-Birds’ deficit to 46-44 early in the third quarter. But the Rams answered by scoring the next 14 points to put the game away.
Grantham was one of four North Thurston players in double figures – the Rams got 12 points from Steven Stone and 10 each from Braden Rushton and Hicks.
Zach Delucco added 14 points and Cooper scored 11 for Tumwater.