LACEY — Timberline’s offense, which hit just about everything it threw up in the first quarter, had cooled down in a hurry.
The Blazers’ once-commanding 20-point cushion was whittled to six late in the game.
And as the lead evaporated, so did the chance of a 3A Narrows League girls basketball title, something that has escaped Timberline the last few years.
After a near 31/2-minute scoring drought, the Blazers put the ball in the hands of Callan Russell.
The junior delivered.
Russell scored 11 of her game-high 23 points in the fourth quarter, including seven free throws, putting Timberline right back in the hunt for a league title with a 64-53 victory over visiting Wilson on Friday in Lacey.
“Callan just knows how to get to the hoop,” Timberline coach Zandrea Edenstrom said. “We’ve worked a lot on her offense. She used to just plow into players when she drove and got fouls. She’s no good to us on the bench.”
Instead of being whistled for them, Russell drew fouls down the stretch as the 5-foot-11 wing constantly found daylight against the Rams’ defense and attacked.
Russell made just one field goal over the final six minutes of the game, but her damage was done at the free-throw line.
Once the Rams wised up to stop Russell’s penetration, she dished to teammates Linae Myhand and Niamyah Warner, who each sunk big shots towards the end of the game to help the Blazers pull away.
“The girls were determined tonight,” Edenstrom said. “Wilson has turned into our league rival the last couple of seasons. We’ve finished second to them in league a couple times. We’ve lacked intensity before; we have that now with this group.”
With a victory the Rams could
have taken a large step towards another league crown, but now finds itself tied atop the league standings with Timberline, both with 7-1 marks.
Wilson won the previous matchup with the Blazers, 61-53, on Dec. 19.
“The biggest difference is the girls’ attitudes towards each other,” Edenstrom said. “They don’t leave the locker room without saying ‘Family’ now. That’s a key for us.”
Myhand scored 14 and Warner chipped in 13 for the Blazers.
Violet Morrow paced Wilson with 13 points, leading a second-half charge that cut the Rams’ deficit to 49-43 with 4:40 to play.
Timberline answered by outscoring Wilson 12-4 over the next three minutes to produce some much-needed breathing room.
The Blazers led 37-22 at halftime, getting 10 points from Russell and nine from Sara Bowen.
The game was a mere 90 seconds old and Wilson coach Michelle Birge had already burned a timeout following the Rams’ first two possessions, which resulted in a shot-clock violation and a missed field goal.
The Blazers, however, came out dialed-in, amassing a 9-0 lead and sinking 8-of-9 attempts from the field. From there, they never trailed.
“We had a great week of practice heading into this game,” Edenstrom said. “It really paid off in that first quarter. We came out ready.”
A Russell basket pushed Timberline’s lead to 19-6 with 11/2 minutes remaining in the first quarter.
The momentum carried into the second quarter with a Bowen transition bucket capping an 8-0 run by Timberline, giving the Blazers their first 20-point lead of the game at 31-11.
The Rams’ offense briefly got on track, scoring the game’s next nine points, to cut the deficit to 31-20.
Josie Matz and Kiara Knox each scored nine points for the Rams, while Bowen added nine for the Blazers.
Black Hills 66, Centralia 52: Freshman TJ Mickelson scored a game-high 21 points, hitting a pair of 3s late in the contest, as the last-place Wolves pulled off the upset of the season in the 2A Evergreen Conference with a victory over the league-leading Tigers.
Tremarcus Hackney added 16 points, while Kyler Noyen scored 10 and Casey Duff chipped in nine for Black Hills.
Foss 50, North Thurston 47: Darren Sroor scored a game-high 18 points as the Rams fell to the Falcons in 3A Narrows League action.
North Thurston received nine points each from David Marrero and Steven Stone.
Olympia 64, Yelm 62: Mitch Fettig and Khalil Matheney both scored 14 points as the Bears edged the Tornados in a 4A Narrows League showdown.
Elijah Fuller scored 21 points, and teammate Christian Davis added for 19 in the losing effort.
River Ridge 58, Capital 28: Jazzlynn Brewster scored 16 points, and Savannah McGill added 11 in the Hawks’ victory over the Cougars.
River Ridge led 38-18 at halftime, and improved to 5-3 in the 2A Evergreen Conference.
North Thurston 53, Foss 32: The Rams jumped out to an early lead and never let up as they bested the Falcons in a 3A Narrows League matchup.
North Thurston’s Malia Akalirai led all scorers with 14 points.
Olympia 56, Yelm 49: The Bears used a 24-point first quarter to put away the visiting Tornados.
Sarah Snodgrass and Nicole scored 19 and 15 points, respectively, for Olympia.