TACOMA – Everyone around Lacey knows the bigger the game, the better Timberline High School boys basketball coach Allen Thomas dresses.
Decked out in nice threads Saturday night, Thomas also wore a colorful Nike GPS wristwatch. One of his players noticed it, too, and asked before the game if he could have it.
Get us to the Class 3A state tournament, Thomas said, and you can have whatever you want.
Well, Thomas traded that watch for what may have been the biggest playoff win in the program’s history – a 56-55 victory over No. 2 Mercer Island in the regional tournament at Mount Tahoma High School – and the Blazers’ first trip to the state tournament since 2004.
Donaven Dorsey led the way for Timberline with 27 points – 18 coming in the second half. Elijah Sanders added 12 points. And one Timberline player got Thomas’ watch.
“It’s gone,” said Thomas, his white shirt sweat-soaked from 32 minutes of exciting basketball. “I have to try and get another one on eBay.”
No team had more than a six-point lead the entire way, but a few times in the first half, the bigger
Islanders – led by 6-foot-8 center Joe Rasmussen, the son of former NBA big man Blair Rasmussen – threatened to stretch theirs to double digits.
The key was the way Timberline came out to start the second half, getting in the faces of Mercer Island guards. The Blazers scored the first seven points, capped by Dorsey’s turnaround jumper, to take a 29-28 lead at the 4 minute, 23-second mark of the third quarter.
It was back and forth the rest of the way. There were eight lead changes in the second half. The game was tied eight times.
The Islanders’ last lead came when Nick Nordale’s basket with 3:14 to go made it 48-44.
Timberline tied it on a four-point possession – capped by Dorsey’s 3-pointer.
“Donaven came through and made some big shots,” Thomas said.
Timberline clung to a 56-55 lead, and had possession in the final 40 seconds. But the Blazers were pressured into an over-and-back violation, giving Mercer Island the basketball with 19.4 seconds remaining.
And the Islanders found the guy they wanted on their end – Rasmussen, who seemingly had a clear path to an easy 5-footer. But his shot went too strong off the backboard, and Timberline’s Tyler Gartner jointly cradled the rebound along with an Islander for a jump ball. The Blazers took possession with 2.8 seconds remaining.
“(Rasmussen) was under duress quite a bit during the play,” Mercer Island coach Gavin Cree said. “It was a tough shot with guys hanging on him.”
And Gartner’s feathery inbounds pass near midcourt was hauled in by the 6-6 Dorsey, who clanked a layup at the buzzer. It didn’t matter – the Blazers won the game.
“It was hard fought,” Dorsey said, “They almost got us, honestly.”
The Blazers, who finished third in Narrows 3A, are playing their best – pushing Lincoln in the West Central District championship game, and now knocking off the Islanders, who have won the state title four times.
“They had a goal before the season to go to state,” Thomas said of his players. “But some of these guys didn’t realize how hard it is to get there.”Todd Milles: 253-597-8442 firstname.lastname@example.org blogs.thenewstribune.com/preps @ManyHatsMilles