That’s the way a high school basketball game is supposed to be, North Thurston coach Tim Brown says.
A crosstown rivalry, a big crowd, and two proven programs battling for a win. Friday night in Lacey, that’s exactly what a packed gym got to see.
The Rams rallied from an early deficit in the second half, passed Timberline in the fourth quarter, and held on for a 63-58 win in Thurston County’s oldest rivalry game.
The victory also gave the undefeated Rams (7-0) sole possession of first place in the Class 3A South Sound Conference, and handed Timberline (5-1) its first loss.
“Super pumped,” North Thurston forward Clay Christian said. “We had the students run out on the court after the game. We were so excited.”
Christian scored a team-high 24 points for the Rams, and gave North Thurston its first lead since early in the first quarter with a free throw with four minutes, 15 seconds remaining.
North Thurston took the lead for good three minutes later, when Christian drove into the paint and pulled up for a short jumper with 1:13 to play.
“It was a crazy atmosphere,” Christian said. “There were tons of people in the stands, it was a highly anticipated game.
“We knew it was going to be a dog fight throughout the whole game. We knew that if we were persistent throughout the whole game, we’d come through in the end.”
Timberline controlled the lead much of the game, led by Wichitia State University signee Erik Stevenson, who scored a game-high 31 points.
The star shooting guard broke Timberline’s career scoring record with his first bucket of the game — a long-range 3-pointer with 4:01 remaining in the first quarter. It was the first of five 3-pointers Stevenson scored.
Stevenson now has 1,292 points in his four-year career with the Blazers. Greg Champlin set the previous record (1,263 points) in 1973.
Stevenson kept the Blazers in striking distance late, with seven points down the stretch, but North Thurston outlasted the threat.
“It’s really big for us. I think we’ve been underdogs our whole careers,” said Rams guard Jeremy Spencer, who chipped in 13 points.
North Thurston retained much of its roster from last season, where it narrowly lost to Capital in a winner-to-state game.
“I think our ability to have a lot of leaders on the court, our age and our experience helps us a lot,” Spencer said.
Tim Tenkley added another 11 points for the Rams, while Garrett Wallace had nine. Timberline’s Eli Morton finished with 13 points, including four 3-pointers.
T – Rouse 2, Campau 7, Morton 13, Stevenson 31, Warick 2, Melad 3
NT – Spencer 13, Nielsen 6, Wallace 9, Tenkley 11, Christian 24