The Tumwater boys basketball team used last year’s North Thurston Holiday Tournament as a springboard to success.
It was in Lacey where the Thunderbirds kicked off their run which ultimately resulted in the school’s first conference championship.
Tumwater coach Thomas Rowswell is hoping this year’s edition of the tournament will have a similar effect on his squad.
Ty Gentry scored 15 of his game-high 21 points in the second half, Weston VandenHazel scored 15 and the T-Birds opened up the annual tournament by besting host North Thurston, 65-51, on Tuesday.
“It’s that time of year, right after Christmas break, everyone is getting ready for league play to start. We’re just looking to find a rhythm,” Rowswell said. “We’re just looking to flip that switch. Whether it’s this game or next, we’re just hoping we flip it.”
If that switch didn’t get flipped in the second half against the Rams, someone at least has their fingers on it as Tumwater (5-2) overcame a sluggish first half to finish strong, using a 16-2 run in the third quarter to reclaim the lead for good.
The T-Birds got exactly what they wanted from their key players down the stretch. Gentry was a playmaker, hitting the open shot and attacking the rim when needed while Vandenhazel, Tumwater’s 6-foot-10 senior, controlled the middle and Jacob Gibbons and Spencer Dowers both sank 3-pointers when called upon.
The combination has proven to be a difficult scenario for opponents to overcome the past two seasons and that proved to be the case against the Rams (3-6).
Wes Reynolds and Aaron Stone scored 15 and 11 points respectively for North Thurston.
The T-Birds led for most of the first half before a late surge gave the Rams a slim 27-25 lead at the intermission.
Tumwater immediately put the ball in Gentry’s hands to start the third quarter and the senior guard ignited the game-changing 16-2 run with a pair of quick baskets.
A free throw by North Thurston’s Darren Sroor cut the Rams’ deficit to 50-45 with just under 4 minutes to play.
The T-Birds answered with an 8-0 run, which included a dunk by VandenHazel and back-to-back 3-pointers from Dowers and Gibbons, to put the game away.
“We just weren’t reacting very well in the first half,” Rowswell said. “We did a much better job with that in the second half. We made good decisions, and when we do that, when we attack and move the ball, we’re a tough matchup for teams.”
Tumwater will play River Ridge at 5:15 p.m. on Wednesday in a clash of two potential Class 2A state tournament participants.
North Thurston plays Centralia at 7 p.m. Wednesday. The Rams posted a convincing 63-34 victory in their Dec. 4 meeting.. Clay Christian was one of three North Thurston players to score in double figures, registering a game-high 14 points in the first matchup between the two squads.