LACEY — It might not have been the Timberline Blazers’ best game, and at times, North Thurston played some of its better ball of the season trying to get a much-needed victory.
In a battle between the 3A Narrows League’s second- and fifth-place teams, the outcome came down to the final three North Thurston possessions: Could the lower-ranked host Rams get a win to remain in the hunt for a playoff berth, or would the Blazers earn their third straight win in league play?
With Timberline nursing a one-point lead late, North Thurston had not one — but three chances — to get the winning bucket in the final 32.4 seconds of the game, and when Megan Kramer’s shot on the third and final possession hit the backboard and clanged off the rim as time expired, it sealed the Blazers’ 49-48 victory over North Thurston in the girls basketball game Wednesday night at North Thurston High School.
Timberline’s largest lead was 42-36 with less than a minute to play in the third quarter, but the Rams cut their deficit to three points on three occasions in the fourth quarter, including 47-44 on a lay-in by Kajana Fernandus with 4:04 remaining. Fernandus finished with a game-high 21 points.
Fernandus hit a 3-pointer from the right corner to tie the game at 47-all with 1:38 to play. The Rams grabbed a slim 48-47 advantage on a free throw by Brittany Sebesta, North Thurston’s other double-digit scorer on the night with 11 points.
But Timberline’s Callen Russell hit the eventual winning free throws on a 1-and-1 opportunity with 48.8 seconds to go that made the score 49-48. Russell and Kiera Allen each finished with 10 points to lead the Blazers.
Down the stretch, Timberline’s 1-2-2 pressure zone defense was a difference-maker, forcing North Thurston into 25 turnovers.
“I think we realized we needed to win, since Thurston’s a tough league game and we’re going to be battling Lincoln on Friday,” said Timberline senior Sarah McKee, who finished with seven points.
North Thurston’s three opportunities for the winning bucket came with 32.4 seconds, 18.5 seconds and 5.8 seconds remaining. After Fernandus’ miss down low, North Thurston forced a jump ball with 5.8 seconds left and set up for the final shot under the basket. Fernandus’ dribble-drive dish to Kramer for the winning jumper was long.
North Thurston coach Mike Harn said his team, with many of his players ill, did well against the Blazers’ zone defense, after tough losses against league-leader Wilson and Mount Tahoma, which also featured similar traps and defenses.
“We found some success in that,” Harn said. “I was very happy with that. … “To know that we played sick and put ourselves in a position to win, all of those little things, we learn from. I hope we do.”
Olympia 78, Central Kitsap 71 (OT): With Olympia down by three with 5.3 seconds to go in regulation, freshman Jenna Randich ran an in-bounds pass down the court and made the tying 3-pointer to force overtime.
It was one of Olympia’s 12 3-pointers in the game. The Bears trailed the entire game until the fourth quarter. Randich finished with a career-high 27 points with Sarah Snodgrass and Faith Cebula each chipped in with 17 points.
Central Kitsap 55, Olympia 52: Olympia’s fourth-quarter comeback at Central Kitsap fell short, and the Cougars handed Olympia its fourth straight loss.
Michael Naipo led the Bears with 13 points and three players — Brendan Leonard, Mitch Fettig and Alex Johnson — had eight points apiece.
Timberline 63, North Thurston 31: Elijah Sanders’ 13 points made him one of three Blazers to score in double figures, helping Timberline to its third straight victory. Tyler Gartner (11 points) and Levi Lambert-Wilson (10) also paced the Blazers in their win.Meg Wochnick: 360-754-5473 firstname.lastname@example.org theolympian.com/southsoundsports @megwochnick