Timberline High School fell one point short of the Class 3A semifinals Friday afternoon at the Tacoma Dome.
Erik Stevenson, the Blazers’ reliable star shooting guard, crouched with his head down after his final shot from beyond midcourt bounced off the glass left of the rim.
The Lincoln players surrounding Stevenson erupted as the buzzer sounded, and the second-ranked Abes held on for a 64-63 win, sending the Blazers to the consolation bracket.
Moments earlier, the fifth-ranked Blazers had an opportunity to punch their ticket to the state semifinals for the first time since 1981, rallying from a deficit that was as high as 14 points in the second half.
“The way Lincoln plays, they will allow you to come back,” Timberline coach Allen Thomas said. “We just didn’t make the most of a couple of opportunities.
“Anything could have happened in the last 30 seconds. It just didn’t go our way.”
With 8.7 seconds remaining, trailing by the one point, Stevenson was trapped by three Lincoln defenders who eventually regained possession on a jump ball.
Le’zjon Bonds missed the front end of a one and one with 4.5 seconds to go. Stevenson grabbed the rebound, but Bonds tied him up to prevent a quick drive up the court, and the long heave toward the basket hit the backboard.
“A bounce here, maybe a call here or there, you never know what could have happened,” Thomas said. “It could have gone either way.”
Stevenson, a Wichita State signee who scored a game-high 23 points and pulled down seven rebounds, was called for his fourth foul with three minutes remaining in the third quarter.
“It’s tough,” Thomas said. “You can’t have him be too aggressive, because guys are looking to take charges.
“You want to go offensive-defensive sub so he can still be a threat. I think the fact that he got hot late helped us stay close.”
Casson Rouse rattled in a 3-pointer to tie the game late in the third, but Lincoln built its lead back to six points by the end of the quarter with Stevenson on the bench.
Stevenson returned for the fourth quarter, but Lincoln continued to capitalize on his limitations on defense. Linton pushed the lead back to 60-51 midway through the final quarter.
“We had to hope they would miss some shots, and they started missing some shots late in the game,” Stevenson said.
The Blazers went on a 12-4 run in the 4:17, but couldn’t complete the late comeback.
Stevenson shook Linton and nailed a 3-pointer from the key with 36.7 seconds remaining to cut Lincoln’s lead to 64-63, but that was ultimately the game’s final basket.
“He just kept fighting, he’s a fighter,” Thomas said of Stevenson. “Sometimes it works out and sometimes it doesn’t. That’s just a part of the game.”
Rouse added 17 points, six assists and five rebounds for the Blazers, while Trevor Joubert chipped in 11 points, six rebounds.
Bonds led Lincoln with 15 points, while Emmett Linton and Willie Thomas each finished with 10.
Timberline (20-7) meets the loser of Wilson-Rainier beach in a loser-out game at 10:30 a.m. Friday. The winner of that game will play for fourth place Saturday.
“I’m excited for the guys to still be able to play,” Thomas said. “We’re still fighting for stuff. Guys have to flush it and move on, or you’re going to have another letdown.”
Stevenson is 12 points away from tying the career scoring record in Thurston County, set by Capital’s Ryan Jones (1,821 points) from 1995-97, in what could be the final game of his career.
“I just want to keep playing well, playing hard, end my career on a high note, and build for the future,” Stevenson said.
NO. 5 TIMBERLINE
NO. 2 LINCOLN
T – Rouse 17, Morton 7, Stevenson 23, Joubert 11, Faalogo 1, Warick 4
L – Linton 10, Bonds 15, Thomas 10, Braggs 8, Simon 4, Dillingham 7, Yearby 5, Babbs 5