Erik Stevenson remembers what happened in the Tacoma Dome last year.
He remembers how Timberline High School lost by double digits to Seattle Prep in a loser-out game on the first day of the Class 3A state tournament.
Wednesday afternoon, in a rematch of that game on the same stage, Stevenson, a Wichita State signee, heard the “overrated” chants coming from Prep’s student section early in the first quarter.
He had a simple response to the past demons and lingering noise — not this time.
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“It’s definitely the overrated (chants),” he said. “It’s the taste they left in our mouths from last year, and it’s the fact that they didn’t come out and respect us.
“I play with a chip on my shoulder every game, but it was just even bigger for this one.”
Stevenson unloaded a season-high 43 points on the seventh-ranked Panthers, and added eight steals and six rebounds, to lead fifth-ranked Timberline to its first win in the Tacoma Dome since 2004.
The Blazers (20-6) took the lead on Stevenson’s opening basket in the second quarter, and never lost it, eventually running away with an 87-68 win to advance to Thursday’s quarterfinals.
“We’re hungry, and we really were mad about that Kelso game,” said senior Casson Rouse, recalling last week’s regional loss. “We knew we had to come out and play better.
“The whole time we executed and shared the ball. We know we can hang with any of these guys in the state. We just had to put it together, and we did.”
Rouse poured in another 16 points for the Blazers, and grabbed eight rebounds, while point guard Eli Morton added 15 points.
Timberline shot 54.4 percent from the floor — including 38.9 percent from the perimeter on Stevenson’s seven 3-pointers — to eventually pull away in the fourth quarter.
Stevenson’s 3-pointer with six minutes, 43 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter put the Blazers ahead by double digits for good.
“This is the first time in a while that everybody believed in the game plan from start to finish,” Timberline coach Allen Thomas said.
The senior scored 24 points in the first half, and 19 in the second half to muscle Timberline to the win, and appeared to be everywhere on the floor throughout the game.
He added an exclamation point midway through the fourth on a two-handed flush in transition that pushed Timberline’s lead to 12.
“I shot it pretty well tonight,” said Stevenson, who has 1,786 career points in 103 appearances. “I didn’t want my career to end the first game in the Dome.”
Prep held a lead for most of the first quarter, and was paced by Kalu Stricklin, who finished with a team-high 21 points.
Nic Lynch, the Panthers’ 6-foot-11 center who is committed to Lehigh University, completed a double-double with 20 points and 11 rebounds.
“He is a monster inside,” Thomas said of Lynch. “But, I think our guys felt what it was like last year, losing to (Prep).
“They basically said, ‘Not again.’ They kept coming to the bench and saying that. I think they are very determined this year.”
Rouse said the Blazers are trying to leave a legacy this season Thomas and future Blazers teams can build on, and this was a good start.
“It means a lot for the guys before us and the guys after us,” Rouse said. “This isn’t just about our team.”
Stevenson said he and the rest of Timberline’s roster will look to carry this momentum into their quarterfinals matchup against Lincoln at 12:15 p.m. Thursday at the Tacoma Dome.
The Blazers lost to the second-ranked Abes (24-1) by 22 points in February in the 3A West Central/Southwest bidistrict semifinals. They lost to Lincoln at that point last year, too.
“We have some anger built up,” Stevenson said. “It should be a battle. Hopefully we come out on top.”
The fire of the past was enough to boost the Blazers to a win Wednesday, and Rouse says it could do the same against the Abes.
“We know we can hang with Lincoln. We know we can hang with anyone,” he said. “We just have to put it together.”
“I know they’re on an emotional high at the moment, but we just need to rest, hydrate, and come back.” Thomas said of his team. “They know they have to go to war.”
NO. 7 SEATTLE PREP
NO. 5 TIMBERLINE
SP – Striklin 21, Trifunovic 4, Woodward 11, Gale 6, Lynch 20, Kelly 3, Loughlin 2
T – Rouse 16, Morton 15, Stevenson 43, Joubert 5, Faalogo 4, Hicks 4