Once they got going, Centralia’s Tigers played like they didn’t want this unusual season to end.
Senior Hodges Bailey, who led all scorers with 23 points, scored seven straight points spanning the third and fourth quarters to get Centralia close, and his two steals and nine straight Tigers points to close it out were enough to finish off Tumwater and end the T-Birds’ season.
The 57-52 victory on Thursday sends the Tigers (16-8) into a loser-out/winner-to-state game against Columbia River, which eliminated R.A. Long, 40-38.
“They decided to buckle down,” Centralia coach Kyle Donahue said of his players. “They decided to play team basketball, is what they did.”
The Tigers’ season took a turn after an early loss to Tumwater, when veteran coach Ron Brown stepped away from the program for health reasons.
“These kids are pretty resilient,” Donahue said. “They just keep bouncing back.”
The Tigers needed every ounce of resilience after they fell behind, 34-17, seconds into the third quarter on a three-pointer by Tumwater junior CJ Geathers. The Tigers outscored Tumwater, 40-18, from there on out, but didn’t lead until 4:45 was left in the fourth quarter.
“Centralia was definitely a little bit more aggressive in the second half,” said Tumwater coach Thomas Rowswell, whose T-Birds finished at 17-6. “Some breaks didn’t go our way down the stretch.”
The Tumwater frontcourt led the way in the first quarter, with 6-foot-5 Cade Otton contributing four points and a senior presence, and 6-4 sophomore Thomas Drayton adding four points and a handful of rebounds in space. The T-Birds led, 14-7, after the first.
The T-Birds pulled away in the second quarter, scoring the first nine points, including a breakaway stop-and-pop 3-pointer by Geathers. Tumwater led, 31-14, on another Geathers 3-pointer before Bailey banked in a 3-pointer for the Tigers at the halftime buzzer.
After getting outrebounded, 18-8, by Tumwater in the first half, Donahue made it a point of emphasis for his team. The Tigers outboarded the T-Birds, 11-9, after intermission.
Tyler Ashmore shot the Tigers back into the game, scoring nine points in a 17-7 Centralia run to open the second half. The T-Birds clung to a 45-41 lead at the third quarter’s end after four straight free throws by Bailey.
Bailey’s 3-pointer to open the fourth quarter pulled the Tigers within a point, and Layne Pertzborn gave his team a hard-earned lead with a 15-footer from the corner.
It was Bailey’s 3-pointer with a minute left that earned a 53-49 lead for his team, and shut the door on Tumwater.
Geathers led Tumwater with 15 points, and senior Brian Marty added 14. Otton was steady in scoring 12 points, and Drayton had 10.
“Our seniors have been special,” Rowswell. “We went down fighting together.”
Ashmore scored 13 points for Centralia, and Pertzborn added 11.
Centralia will play Columbia River on Saturday at a neutral site, and at a time to be determined.
Centralia 57, Tumwater 52
Q1 Q2 Q3 Q4 T
Tumwater 14 17 14 7 -- 52
Centralia 7 10 24 16 -- 57
T: Marty 14, Geathers 15, Otton 12, Koukal, Drayton 10, Weller 1.
C: Pertzborn 11, Thomas 4, Bailey 23, Ashmore 13, Shute 2, Edwards 4.