Timberline High School started Wednesday night’s game in a 2-3 zone to get an idea where Jeremy Spencer and Clay Christian — two of the area’s top scorers — would be at early on.
What the zone did, though, was keep North Thurston off the scoreboard for the first four minutes.
“We didn’t expect that, really,” Timberline guard Erik Stevenson said. “We thought they were going to come out and hit a few shots in our zone.”
The Rams missed their first six, and Timberline hit six of their first seven at the other end to open a 15-0 run.
That early gap was enough to lift the Blazers to a 73-68 win in a Class 3A South Sound Conference rivalry game at North Thurston High School.
“We just kind of built off that, it just got us going,” Stevenson said.
Tim Tenkley opened scoring for the Rams midway through the first quarter, but Timberline never let the lead dip below double digits in the first half and carried a 37-23 lead into the break.
“We’ve been playing great, we’ve been playing with a lot of energy, and tonight we started the game with zero energy,” North Thurston coach Tim Brown said. “No clue.”
On the shoulders of Stevenson’s team-high 27 points and nine rebounds, the Blazers continued to maintain a comfortable lead until the final quarter.
Tariq Romain (11 points) and Eli Morton (10) also scored in double digits for Timberline.
“I just thought we were sharing the ball early,” Timberline coach Allen Thomas said. “I thought we got a little bit complacent in the second quarter, midway through.
“We were taking contested jumpers again and they weren’t falling, and (North Thurston) slowly but surely came back.”
The Rams closed the third quarter on a 9-2 run to cut Timberline’s lead to eight.
Christian scored a game-high 30 points and took several trips to the free throw line, eventually causing Timberline bigs Jaelen Bush and Jamin Faalogo to foul out in the fourth quarter.
“They were wearing us out,” Thomas said. “I mean, not they, Clay. He was wearing us out in the paint, just overpowering us.
“We were trying to full front in the post, but he was just tough in there. You’ve got to tip your hat off to him.”
Spencer — who added 12 points for the Rams — hit two 3-pointers in the final 33 seconds to keep the game within two possessions, but the Rams couldn’t get closer.
“I still don’t think we played very well, our shooting percentage was poor,” Brown said. “Our kids did battle, though, I give them a lot of credit for that. And you’ve got to give Timberline credit, they came ready to play.”
Timberline (12-5, 8-3 3A SSC) remains in second place in the league standings behind Capital. The Cougars can clinch the league’s inaugural title with a win Friday against Central Kitsap.
North Thurston (10-7, 6-5) is in fourth.
“We had to come and get a win,” Stevenson said. “This was a must win for our league standing, really. We’ve got to win out, that’s our goal, and just build momentum for the playoffs.”