Timberline High School boys basketball coach Allen Thomas thought he had a defensive plan that would limit Clay Christian’s touches and keep Jeremy Spencer off the three-point line.
It didn’t work as Christian, North Thurston’s 6-foot-3 junior scoring machine, recorded his fourth 30-plus-point game of the season, dropping 33 on the Blazers.
Spencer finished with 19, including a trio of three-point baskets.
Fortunately for Thomas and his team, a bit of advice he’s been giving Erik Stevenson finally came to fruition.
“All season, the coaches have been telling me, ‘Attack the basket, attack the basket,’ ” Stevenson said. “Tonight I did.”
The 6-4 junior guard broke the Timberline single-game scoring record with 45 points as the Blazers rallied from a 12-point, fourth-quarter deficit to edge crosstown rival North Thurston, 78-74, on Friday night in a 3A South Sound Conference game that featured wild momentum swings.
When North Thurston point guard Gunnar Nielsen, who bedeviled the Blazers with pinpoint assists from all over the floor, scored his first points of the night on a pair of free throws, the Rams led 58-46 only seconds into the final period.
Although the Blazers cut their deficit to 62-56, Timberline’s chances took a jolt when Tariq Romain, who finished with 15 points, fouled North Thurston’s Aaron Stone. Not only did Stone make both free throws, but Timberline was in the double bonus with six minutes left to play.
That’s when Stevenson, who made it a double-double with 11 rebounds, took over.
“We’ve been trying to convince him he’s more than a shooter,” Thomas said. “We told him, ‘You’re a good player, find the basket, get to the foul line.’ ”
Stevenson did all those things as he scored Timberline’s final 24 points of the game in those six minutes. He surpassed the existing the school record of 44 points — scored by Donaven Dorsey, now redshirting at Montana after transferring from Washington, against Kentwood three years ago. Eight of Stevenson’s points during the decisive run came from inside the paint, eight came on outside jumpers and eight came from the free-throw line.
With North Thurston (3-2, 1-2) still in the lead, Stevenson twice countered Rams’ 3-pointers with a 3-pointer of his own. Down 68-64 after a Christian 3-pointer from the corner, Stevenson hit from beyond the top of the key. Nielsen gave the Rams their four-point cushion back from out high, but Stevenson hit again, this time from just to the left of the top of the key.
“On the first one, the defender was playing back,” said Stevenson. “By the time I hit the second one, I was feeling it, the crowd was feeling it.”
Nonetheless, the Blazers (2-1, 4-2) benefited from a sequence of two Rams technical fouls to take the lead for good. Just after the two-minute mark, Christian was fouled, but before he could shoot, technicals were called on a Rams player and the North Thurston bench.
Stevenson made three of four from the line. Timberline took the lead at 73-72 and never trailed again.
“It was an up-and-down game,” Thomas said. And it was. North Thurston led 21-14 after a quarter, but Timberline outscored the Rams, 22-8, in the second to take a seven-point halftime lead that was wiped out by a 21-4 North Thurston run during the third and early fourth quarters.
In addition to Stevenson and Romain, Eli Morton reached double figures for Timberline, scoring 10.
Timberline 63, North Thurston 53: The Blazers (4-1) burned the Rams (2-3) in a strong performance Friday that saw Sophomore Kiara Brooks lead the way to victory scoring a team high 23 points.
The Timberline team was down 27-24 going into the half but then came out in the third quarter like a weight had been lifted off them, scoring 26 points.
North Thurston couldn’t come back from that deficit having only scored 13 points to the Timberline 26 in that third quarter.
This was even with Junior Quinlan Christian getting 17 points it just wasn’t enough for the Rams to close the 10 point gap.
This gave the Blazers breathing room going into the 4th quarter so even though North Thurston held them to a 13-13, the Timberline team was still able to coast to a 10 point win.
Timberline will play the Holy Names Academy at Home on Saturday at 7 p.m. and Timberline will travel to WF West High School to play the Bearcats on Tuesday at 7 p.m.
North Thurston 21 8 27 18 - 74
Timberline 14 22 10 32 - 78
NT – Nielsen 5, Spencer 19, Sallee 2, Stone 4, Wallace 7, Tenkley 6, Christian 33, Beatty 2
RR – Romain 15, Campau 2, Morton 10, Stevenson 45, Faalogo 0, Bush 3, Thompson 2, Warick 0.