OLYMPIA — Senior Ben Pearce summed up what naysayers might feel about teams who start their season with one victory in their first 10 games.
“You’re not supposed to make the playoffs at 1-9,” Pearce said.
But the Capital Cougars don’t buy that for a second.
“We’re in the playoffs,” he added. “Playoffs are a whole new season.”
Capital’s 64-50 victory over Aberdeen on Friday puts the Cougars into the Southwest 2A District IV boys basketball tournament, which starts Feb. 15, regardless of the outcome of Tuesday’s regular-season finale at W.F. West.
Capital’s win, combined with Tumwater’s 67-52 win over Black Hills on Friday, means the Cougars and T-Birds, who are both 5-6 in 2A Evergreen Conference play, clinched the final two open playoff spots.
Capital (6-13, 5-6 2A EvCo) can make it two wins in a row for the first time this season with a win over the Bearcats on Tuesday.
In the teams’ first meeting at Capital on Jan. 14, the Cougars
won, 65-61, against a Bearcats team that, at the time, was in first place in the league. That was a turning point in their season according to Pearce and junior Jacob Pratt.
“We’ve come a long way,” Pearce said. “We’ve had ups and downs. ... Where we are now, is where we want to be.”
“When everyone is playing good together,” Pratt added, “things go well.”
Their first league win — 61-54 against Black Hills — was exactly a month ago Friday, and since then, they’ve won five of their past nine. A win in Chehalis on Tuesday could mean the No. 4 seed into the playoffs.
On Friday, Pratt finished with a team-high 19 points — including 14 in the second half — against the Bobcats while sophomore Ty Gentry had 18, as the Cougars took their first double-digit lead in the final minute of the first half and held it for most of the game.
Aberdeen (7-12, 3-9), behind Addam Follett’s game-high 26 points, including six 3-pointers, did all it could to keep its playoff hopes alive. While trailing by double-digits most of the second half, the play of Follett and Austin Floch helped the Bobcats make an 11-4 run to take what was a 55-39 Capital lead with 4:55 to go in the game and cut it to 57-50 on a putback by Floch with 1:41 left.
Follett, however, was the only Bearcat to score in double figures. He was 8 of 21 shooting, and the rest of the team combined for nine field goals.
At Timberline 70, North Thurston 43: The Blazers opened the game on a 15-0 run on its way to a victory over the Rams in 3A Narrows League action. Brandell Evans and Taylor Adams each had 12 to pace Timberline (10-8, 6-4 3A Narrows) which is in third place in the league and closes out the regular-season hosting Lincoln on Wednesday. Darren Snorr had 10 to lead the North Thurston (6-14).
Tumwater 67, at Black Hills 52: The Thunderbirds used a second-half surge – plus 22 points from David Cooper and 15 from Cole Hastie – to lock up a playoff berth to the Southwest 2A District IV tournament with a win over the Wolves. Black Hills freshman guard TJ Mickelson had a career-high 39 points, including 20 of the Wolves’ 26 points in the first half, as the Wolves finished 6-14.
At Centralia 80, W.F. West 66: Centralia clinched the No. 1 seed into the district tournament and at least a share of the 2A Evergreen Conference title with its win over W.F. West.
At Black Hills 78, Tumwater 48: Sydney Sauls had a game-high 17 points, and Nicole Nurmi had 14 in the Wolves win over the T-Birds to snap a two-game losing skid and finish the regular season no worse than a tie for second place in the 2A EvCo standings at 9-3. Sierra Snyder’s 13 points paced the T-Birds (5-14, 2-9), who end their season Tuesday at River Ridge.Meg Wochnick: 360-754-5473 email@example.com theolympian.com/southsoundsports @megwochnick