Everyone around Lacey knows the bigger the game, the better Timberline High School boys’ basketball coach Allen Thomas dresses.
Decked out in nice threads Saturday night, Thomas also wore a colorful Nike GPS wristwatch. One of his players noticed it, too, and asked before the game if he could have it.
Get us to the Class 3A state championships, Thomas said, and you can have whatever you want.
Well, Thomas traded that watch for the biggest playoff win in the program’s history in a long time – a 56-55 victory over No. 2 Mercer Island in the regional tournament at Mount Tahoma High School – and the Blazers’ first trip to the state tournament since 2004.
Donaven Dorsey led the way for Timberline with 27 points – 18 coming in the second half. Elijah Sanders added 12. And one Timberline player got a new watch.
“It’s gone,” said Thomas, his white shirt sweat-soaked from 32 minutes of exciting basketball. “I have to try and get another one on eBay.”
No team had bigger than a six-point lead the entire way, but a few times in the first half, the bigger Islanders – led by 6-foot-8 center Joe Rasmussen, the son of former NBA big man Blair Rasmussen – threatened to stretch theirs to double digits.
The key was the way Timberline came out to start the second half, getting in the faces of Mercer Island guards. The Blazers scored the first seven points, capped by Dorsey’s turnaround jumper, to take a 29-28 lead at the 4:23 mark of the third quarter.
After that, it was back and forth. There were eight lead changes in the second half. The game was tied eight different times.
The Islanders’ last lead came with 3:14 to go on Nick Nordale’s bucket – 48-44. But Timberline tied it again on a four-point possession – capped by Dorsey’s 3-pointer.
“Donaven came through and made some big shots,” Thomas said.
Timberline clung to a 56-55 lead, and had possession in the final 40 seconds. But the Blazers were pressured into an over-and-back turnover, giving Mercer Island the basketball back with 19.4 seconds remaining.
And the Islanders found the guy they wanted on their end – Rasmussen, who seemingly had a clear path to an easy 5-footer. But his shot went too strong off the backboard, and Timberline’s Tyler Gartner cradled the rebound for a jump ball – and Blazers’ possession with 2.8 seconds remaining.
“(Rasmussen) was under duress quite a bit during the play,” Mercer Island coach Gavin Cree said. “It was a tough shot with guys hanging on him.”
And Gartner’s feathery inbounds pass near midcourt was hauled in by the 6-foot-6 Dorsey, who clanked a lay-up at the buzzer. It didn’t matter – the Blazers won the game.
“It was hard fought,” Dorsey said, “They almost got us, honestly.”
The Blazers, who finished third in the Narrows 3A, are playing their basketball right now – pushing Lincoln in the West Central District championship game, and now knocking off the Islanders.
“They had a goal before the season to go to state,” Thomas said. “But some of these guys didn’t realize how hard it is to get there.”