After struggling in the early going, the Timberline Blazers rallied for a 50-45 victory over Thomas Jefferson in a Class 4A West Central District III boys basketball playoff game Wednesday.
Timberline (13-7), which trailed by as many as 11 points in the first half, exploded in the third quarter with a 19-5 run to lead by as many as 13 points.
“What our plan early on was we were just trying to keep our head above water, so to speak, in a hostile environment,” said Timberline coach Allen Thomas, whose team trailed 21-18 at halftime. “Once we started locking in defensively, we started attacking the rim and got a couple of their key guys in foul trouble, and that was part of the game plan. Just to try wear them down inside and hopefully find our rhythm offensively.”
Leading the way in the second half was sophomore Erik Stevenson.
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The 6-foot-3 guard, who came into the game averaging 16 points a game, struggled to stay on the court early with defensive miscues and costly fouls — and he was scoreless. However, the second half was a different story.
Scoring 14 points after halftime, Stevenson gave Jefferson (11-12) fits with his penetration and playmaking ability.
“Stevenson really is a great player,” Thomas said. “Sometimes he feels a lot of pressure to do it all, and I think because of that, he got into a little bit of foul trouble early on. We had to tell him at halftime he needs to settle down and let the game come to him. He’s such a skilled guy that he’s not just a jump shooter, he can attack the rim, he can finish around the rim, he can make pull-up jump shots, he can do a lot. Once he kind of settled into the game, he was there for us.”
With Stevenson leading the run for Timberline, Jefferson struggled to find a counter punch. The Raiders committed several turnovers in the back court as a result of Timberline’s full-court trap.
“We decided to pick them up full court and turn them and try to run a guy at the ballhandler,” Thomas said. “In a game like this, where everything is on the line, mistakes happen. We’re all human. We were trying to get in a rhythm by our defense, seeing us get stops, converting our stops for layups — that was giving us confidence.”
Timberline’s next task will be to face No. 1-ranked Federal Way, which routed Yelm, 78-41, on Wednesday night.
“Coach (Jerome) Collins does a great job with the guys that he has each and every year,” Thomas said. “Defensively, those guys really get after it. They left us with a bad taste in our mouth last year at regionals, so it’s not every day that you get a second chance at someone. I don’t know who is going to win the game, but I do know we are going to come out and play hard.”