Timberline High School became the latest South Sound basketball program to learn this lesson — don’t let the Kelso get an early lead.
The Hilanders will likely keep it.
That proved true again Saturday at Battle Ground High School, as sixth-ranked Kelso got out in front in the first quarter, and held the lead throughout to top Timberline, 58-51, in a Class 3A state regionals contest.
Even a rally late in the fourth quarter, propelled by Wichita State signee Erik Stevenson, who scored a game-high 31 points, couldn’t bring the fifth-ranked Blazers all the way back.
For every sudden scoring burst the Blazers had, Kelso had a defiant answer.
Shaw Anderson scored a team-high 26 points for the Hilanders, and Riley Noah added 22, including two free throws in the final 17 seconds that silenced Timberline’s try at a late comeback.
“They came out, they ran their game plan,” Timberline coach Allen Thomas said. “Anderson was really tough inside, but I thought the key to their game plan today was Riley Noah.”
Kelso never trailed after Anderson, a 6-foot-5 standout forward, threw down a baseline dunk less than three minutes into the first quarter.
And the times the Blazers did contain him — limiting him to five points in the first half, and picking the ball away several times — Noah kept the Hilanders’ offense moving.
Noah’s 13 points in the first half helped Kelso build to a 24-16 lead.
Meanwhile, the Blazers turned in a shaky first half, shooting just 5 of 25 (20 percent) from the floor. Timberline’s final 51 points was its second-worst scoring outing of the season.
“We couldn’t get anything going from the outside, and when that happens it’s tough,” Thomas said. “And we couldn’t get to the basket.”
Stevenson scored 25 of his points in the second half — 15 in the final quarter — and the Blazers cut Kelso’s lead to four points on an Eli Morton 3-pointer early in the fourth, but Kelso answered with an 8-0 run.
Stevenson hit two of his five 3-pointers in the final 30 seconds, but Noah eliminated any doubt for Kelso with the final two free throws.
“They never folded in any moment,” Thomas said of Kelso. “They just called a timeout, came back and executed.”
Both Kelso (21-4) and Timberline (19-6) move on to the Tacoma Dome next week, but the Hilanders earned the coveted first-round by.
Meanwhile, Timberline plays a loser-out game at 12:15 p.m. Wednesday against seventh-ranked Seattle Prep (17-10), which knocked out North Thurston on Saturday.
“We just have to regroup and get ready for the Dome,” Thomas said.
Seattle Prep eliminated Timberline last season in the first round at the Tacoma Dome, 71-53.
2A BOYS REGIONALS
No. 4 Lynden 73, No. 9 W.F. West 46: Christian Zamora scored 31 points for the Lions and Clayton Whitman added 22 to best the Bearcats at Mount Vernon High School.
W.F. West (21-4) still moves on to play at the Yakima Valley SunDome next week, but will open with a loser-out contest against North Kitsap (21-4) at 9 p.m. Wednesday.
1B BOYS REGIONALS
Tulalip Heritage 66, Pope John Paul II 57: In their first trip in school history to the state regionals, the Eagles came up just short of a trip to Spokane at Jackson High School in Mill Creek.
For the second time in two weeks, PJP (14-13) dropped a game to the Hawks by single digits. This time, it ended the Eagles’ season.
PJP held an early lead, but the Hawks rallied to a three-point advantage at halftime, and held on.
Tulalip Heritage’s Paul Shay Jr. led all scorers with 27 points, while Alonzo Jones-Smith had 13 for the Hawks, and Josh Iukes added 12.
Patrick O’Shell was one of four players in double figures for the Eagles, scoring a team-high 18 points.
Ibi Ceesay chipped in 13, while Jay Sullivan and Tim Sellars each had 12.
NO. 5 TIMBERLINE
NO. 6 KELSO
T – Rouse 4, Campau 3, Morton 6, Stevenson 31, Joubert 2, Faalogo 5
K – Davis 1, R. Noah 22, Tack 2, Gamble 2, Anderson 26, Bowlby 5
POPE JOHN PAUL II
PJP – Ceesay 13, Tefft 2, O’Shell 18, Sullivan 12, Sellars 12
TH – Shay Jr. 27, Whitebear 4, Fryberg 2, Iukes 12, Hadley-Comenote 8, Jones-Smith 13