Tumwater boys basketball coach Thomas Rowswell now as an answer he can default to whenever his squad faces any type of pressure or adversity from here on out.
“No Tumwater team has ever done what they’ve done before. We have nothing to compare this season to,” said Rowswell, who guided the Thunderbirds to their first league title in school history this season. “So they should have no pressure on them. No fear. They can just go out there and play basketball.”
David Cooper scored 23 points and Tumwater held Woodland without a field goal for the final three minutes Tuesday as the T-Birds defeated the Beavers, 52-50, in the semifinals of the Class 2A District 4 tournament at Centralia High School.
Rowswell was able to relay his pressure-free advice to his team during a timeout with two seconds remaining in the game.
Trailing 52-50 and inbounding the ball under their own basket, the Beavers had a chance to send the game into overtime.
Woodland, like it did much of the game, fed the ball inside to power forward Jake Rosenbalm, who seemingly had his way on offense throughout the game whenever he posted up down low.
The 6-foot-5 senior caught the ball facing the basket, but was immediately fronted by Cade Otton before being joined by several other T-Birds.
Rosenbalm’s shot arched high over the Tumwater defenders outstretched arms and never hit the rim, sending the T-Birds into the district championship for the first time in the school’s 54-year history.
Once the buzzer sounded the usually reserved Cooper let out a yell and celebrated with his teammates on the court.
“We’ll play the entire game with composure. We won’t show any emotion,” Cooper said. “But right after it was over tonight I think it showed how much we all care about each other as a team. It just feels unbelievable.”
Tumwater (19-3) will play Mark Morris, the defending district champion, in the tournament final at 8 p.m. Friday at Saint Martin’s University’s Marcus Pavillion.
This marks the T-Birds first finals appearance, while the Monarchs, a 63-56 winner over Black Hills in the semifinals, is making their fourth consecutive trip to the championship round and eighth overall during the district tournament’s nine-year history.
In addition to last year’s championship, Mark Morris (20-1) also captured district titles in 2007 and 2008.
Regardless of the final’s outcome, both squads have already secured berths into the regional round of the state tournament.
Cooper scored eight of Tumwater’s 10 points in the fourth quarter, which had six lead changes alone with the last coming on a Cooper free throw with 17.8 seconds to play.
“Tonight was a battle,” Rowswell said. “David made plays down the stretch. That’s what you need out of your senior.”
Woodland (15-6) held its final lead at 49-48 on Rosenbalm’s putback with three minutes to play.
The Beavers only managed one free throw the rest of the way.
“We take a lot of pride in our ability to play man-to-man defense,” Cooper said. “All of us can play man and that was definitely a factor tonight towards the end.”
Ty Gentry scored nine points for the T-Birds, while Rosenbalm paced Woodland with 17 points
For the first time this season, Tumwater did not have a height advantage at the center position when the teams gathered for the opening tip off as the Beavers countered Tumwater’s 6-foot-10 post Weston Vandenhazel with their own towering player, sophomore in 6-foot-11 Bryce Mulder.
Cooper opted to go right at the near 7-footer early, forcing Mulder to the bench after he committed two early fouls on a pair of Cooper three-point plays.
Woodland continued to go inside even without its starter, pounding it down to Rosenbalm, who scored 10 points in the first half with most coming at close range.
The first half featured five lead changes and four ties as the teams battled to a 28-28 tie at the intermission.
Class 4A WCD/SW bi-district
Blazers coach Allen Thomas credited multiple players, including Jarryn Bush with his rebounding and putbacks and freshman Erik Stevenson on one of his best games in a Blazers uniform.
Now, standing in the Blazers’ way of clinching a Class 4A state tournament regional berth is Bellarmine Prep, the only team to sweep the 4A Narrows League champions during the regular season, at 6 p.m. Thursday at Mount Tahoma, in a winner-to-regional, loser-out contest. Win, and the Blazers play again Saturday in a regional seeding game.
Thomas knows it will take a complete team effort to get a victory over the Lions.
“We’re very motivated to play those guys,” he said. “It’s going to be a game to remember.”
Class 3A West Central/SW bi-district
Class 2A District 4
Tremarcus Hackney chipped in 11 points for the Wolves, who pulled within 10 at 59-49 inside three minutes left in the fourth quarter. Black Hills must win two games to qualify for a 2A regional berth for the first time in four seasons.
Black Hills faces Centralia, which eliminated Hockinson 79-77, at 7 p.m. Thursday at Tumwater. The Wolves swept Centralia during the 2A Evergreen Conference regular-season.
Aberdeen will play Woodland at 7 p.m. Thursday at Mark Morris High in Longview in another elimination game. The winner of that game will play the winner of the Black Hills-Centralia contest for the district’s final state berth.