Just about everyone packed inside Stadium High’s gymnasium knew big man Lucious Brown would likely be a factor in the Tigers’ final possession Friday. The Tigers were trailing by one point, with 12 seconds to go and a chance to clinch the 4A Narrows League title on the line.
When Brown’s runner in the lane banked in with 2.5 seconds remaining, it sealed a 64-63 victory to give the boys basketball program its first outright league title since 1991.
“Down by one, I figured if I take it to the hole and create something, it would be better than shooting the 3,” Brown said moments after autographing a commemorative team basketball and cutting down his portion of the net. “I decided to take it in.”
The down-to-the-wire finish was fitting for a game that featured 21 lead changes with none larger than six points.
Yelm took a 63-62 lead with 14 seconds to go on Christian Davis’ free throws, and the Tornados did what they could to contain Brown, but didn’t have the answer. \
Brown was fouled on the play and the ensuing free throw was no good. Davis’ half-court heave hit the back iron, sending the Tigers into a celebration and a No. 1 seed into the West Central/Southwest bi-district tournament with a week left in the regular-season.
Brown finished with a team-high 19 points and seven rebounds as one of three Stadium players to reach double figures. Bobby Moorehead had 18 points, followed by Malik Mayeux, who fouled out with under 2 minutes to play and 11 points.
Momentum was why Yelm coach Jordan Barnes opted for a quick two that gave the Tornados (11-7 overall, 5-5 4A Narrows) its final lead, instead of holding for the possible-game winning shot with 20.9 ticks to go.
A possession earlier, the defense forced a Stadium shot-clock violation, plus Yelm hit buckets on two of its prior three possessions. After being fouled driving to the hoop, Davis drained two free throws for the one-point lead.
“It wasn’t so much strategy,” Barnes said. I knew Lucious was going to guard Christian and I knew Christian was going to go to the hoop.”
Senior Elijah Fuller, Yelm’s leading scorer at better than 20 points a game, only played 4:33 of the first half, because of foul trouble. He found his scoring touch in the fourth quarter, scoring 11 of his 13 points in the final 8 minutes, including consecutive 3s to give Yelm its largest lead of the half at 58-55. But Stadium went on a 7-1 run to grab a 62-59 lead after Brown’s free throws with 1:43 to go.
Picking up the scoring slack with Fuller on the bench most of the first half with foul trouble was Chris Burian, who at one point hit all five of his 3-point attempts. He finished with a game-high 24 points on 8-for-12 shooting.
The Tornados fell into a third-place tie with Bellarmine Prep. With two league games remaining at South Kitsap and at Bellarmine next week, Yelm must win one to guarantee itself one of four playoff berths into the bi-district tournament.
“Next Thursday (against Bellarmine) can have implications,” Barnes said.
Meg Wochnick: 360-754-5473