That was one of the best games, start to finish, that Lincoln High School has played this season, coach Aubrey Shelton says.
It also happened to be one of the worst outings Timberline has had.
“We had to come out with a lot of energy,” Lincoln senior Emmett Linton said. “We knew it was a highly anticipated game. They were going to come for us.”
The second-ranked Abes showed their speed and intensity throughout the contest, and the sixth-ranked Blazers couldn’t match it.
That allowed Lincoln, which keeps its undefeated season in tact, to race away with a 76-54 win Thursday night at Foss High School in the 3A West Central/Southwest bidistrict semifinals.
This is the second consecutive season the Abes have defeated the Blazers as this juncture.
Lincoln (23-0) will move on to try to defend its district title Saturday against a scrappy Kelso team, while Timberline (18-5) will meet its crosstown rival in North Thurston for the third time this season.
Linton scored a game-high 20 points Thursday night, and three more players — Willie Thomas (17), Anthony Braggs (14) and Julien Simon (10) — reached double figures to pace the Abes.
Many of Lincoln’s baskets came in transition, or off of offensive rebounds.
“We took a lot of bad shots, quick shots that led to transition,” Timberline coach Allen Thomas said. “You just can’t play that way against them. They’re going to get out and get layups.”
Timberline took its only lead of the game with one minute, 12 seconds remaining in the first quarter on an Erik Stevenson 3-pointer.
Linton immediately answered at the other end, converting a basket, drawing a foul and sinking the ensuing free throw.
The Abes never trailed again, built a 38-30 lead by halftime, and never let it drop below two possessions in the second half.
“Guys just competed,” Shelton said. “I thought we did a good job forcing them to shoot tough shots and then cleaning up the rebounds.”
Timberline standout Erik Stevenson played much of the second half in foul trouble, and faced consistent pressure.
The Wichita State signee scored a team-high 18 points for the Blazers, below his season average of 23.9. No other Timberline player reached double figures.
Lincoln meets Kelso (19-4) at noon Saturday at Puyallup High School in the district title game.
The Hilanders held sharp-shooting North Thurston to one of its worst offensive nights of the season to advance hours before Lincoln’s victory.
“They’re tough, they’re talented,” Shelton said. “They have guys inside that can play, guys outside who can really shoot it.”
Meanwhile, Timberline meets the fifth-ranked Rams (21-2) in a seeding game at 3:45 p.m. at Foss.
The Blazers are teetering on the edge of losing their spot in the Tacoma Dome with the loss to Lincoln, dropping to eighth in the RPI rankings.
The top eight teams in each classification at the end of the weekend are guaranteed a trip to the state tournament regardless of what happens in regionals.
The Rams dropped to No. 13 after the loss to Kelso.
“Usually it’s really hard to beat a team three times,” Thomas said. “I think this is one of those games that is for the seniors. They really want it.
“Both teams are probably coming in a little bummed, but you still have to play.”