Clay Christian wants to make this clear — the fifth-ranked Rams aren’t done yet.
North Thurston High School kept its undefeated streak alive Tuesday night in Lacey, shooting past Capital, 85-73, to claim the 3A South Sound Conference title.
And the Rams could finish the regular season undefeated with a win at Peninsula later this week. But that would just be the beginning, Christian alluded.
“We go to practice every day to get better,” Christian said. “Not just to win a league championship, but to go as far as we can in the playoffs. That’s what we have to keep working towards.”
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The Rams shared the 2A Evergreen Conference crown with River Ridge in 2012. The last time they won a league title outright was in 2009, as part of the four-team 3A Western Cascade.
Nearly a decade later, this year’s group, which lists nine seniors on its roster, looks poised for a deep playoff run.
“Whoever is in front of us, we’re going to try to beat them. Give the kids a ton of credit,” North Thurston coach Tim Brown said. “They have done that, obviously, all year. We don’t really talk about what the record is or the RPI, we’re just trying to get better every time out.”
North Thurston (19-0, 13-0 3A SSC) looked as sharp as it has all season Tuesday night, riding its potent offense to another statement win.
Christian scored a game-high 28 points for the Rams, while Jeremy Spencer added 19 and Tim Tenkley had 12.
The contest looked to be a shootout in the making early, with the teams trading baskets for much of the first half. The Cougars (14-5, 8-5) had the lead twice, but only kept it for about a minute each time.
North Thurston never trailed after Christian’s basket with four minutes, 31 seconds remaining in the second quarter, which gave the Rams a 34-32 lead.
The Rams went on a small run to take an eight-point lead into the break, and scored on six consecutive possessions to open the second half to begin to pull away.
Dawson Landers, who scored a team-high 19 points for Capital — including five 3-pointers sprinkled throughout the game — kept the Cougars within reach for much of the contest, but the Rams consistently answered at the other end.
Both teams shot above 50 percent from the floor, with the Rams gaining a slight edge, finishing 30 of 53 (56.6 percent), while Capital was 27 of 54 (50 percent).
“They buckled down and played defense — enough of it — to get us that win,” Brown said.
Grant Erickson pitched in 17 points for Capital, while Luke Layton had 16 and Chris Penner added 11.
Penner, Capital’s leading scorer this season averaging 15.6 points per game, sat out the fourth quarter after leaving with an injury earlier in the half.
Capital rounds out its regular season against Gig Harbor on Thursday, and will likely be the league’s No. 3 seed entering next week’s district playoffs.
North Thurston clinched the top seed against Yelm last week, and heads to Peninsula on Thursday to try to wrap up an undefeated regular season run.
“We know each game is more experience for us and more lessons learned,” Christian said. “The better we play, the better we’ll do in the long run. We just have to keep it up.”
NO. 5 NORTH THURSTON
C – Layton 16, Penner 11, Landers 19, Stock 3, Walker 2, Collard 5, Erickson 17
NT – Spencer 19, Nielsen 9, Stone 8, Wallace 9, Tenkley 12, Christian 28, Ponder 2