Tim Brown is in his 24th season as North Thurston High School’s head boys basketball coach.
So when he says something is a first during his Rams tenure, it carries quite a bit of weight.
Juniors Clay Christian and Jeremy Spencer, however, are on pace to become the first duo to accomplish the feat.
Through the first eight games, Christian is averaging 28 points a contest, giving the Rams one of the state’s top scorers, while long-time friend Spencer is chipping in 20 points a games, providing Brown with a very productive offensive one-two punch.
“Usually when you have a good team you have balance with your scoring,” Brown said, “but I’ve never had two kids do something like this.”
Both players immediately cite team chemistry for their success at putting up the abundance of points. However, it’s something that just didn’t occur overnight. The two have been lighting up the scoreboard side-by-side since they first were introduced to each other as first graders at South Bay Elementary.
“I still remember the first day I met Clay when we were on the same AAU team,” Spencer said. “It just kind of carried over to the playground.”
According to Christian, the one thing the duo never did while growing up is play against each other, opting to stay on the same side when teams were selected during recess in an attempt to stack the deck offensively in their favor.
It usually worked.
“We would just take turns scoring on the other teams,” Christian said. “We never guarded each other. We never really lost when we played AAU either. We were the team to beat in the area.”
While Christian, a 6-foot-3 small forward who is equally comfortable playing in the paint as he is shooting from the beyond the arc, has started since his freshman season, Spencer didn’t join him until this season. He came off the bench last year.
Once the tandem was reunited in the Rams’ starting lineup, they wasted little time showing off their offensive prowess.
In the opening game, an 81-77 victory over Auburn, Christian struck for a game-high 31 points, while Spencer pumped in 27. Neither has slowed down since.
Christian followed that game by scoring a career-high 38 points in an 84-70 win over Issaquah.
“I just felt pretty good that game. I didn’t know I had that many while I was playing,” Christian said. “I knew I was scoring a lot of points, but didn’t know until after just how many. I thought I had something in the high 20s, then I looked on the scoreboard and it said 38. I had a pretty big smile on the face after seeing that.”
It was one of four games this season that Christian has scored 30 or more points.
“The weight room this offseason has been good to Clay. He’s really gained confidence because of that. He’s matured both physically and mentally,” Brown said. “Clay’s a little bit of a perfectionist and he wants to make every shot. He gets frustrated when he doesn’t, but he works through it. That’s the big difference this year, working through it, whereas before if he had a bad stretch he would be done.”
Bad stretches seem to be few and far between this year for Christian, who also netted 30 points against Central Kitsap and 31 against Timberline.
“Personally, I started out better than I expected,” Christian said. “I just wanted to make sure I was being aggressive and taking advantage of everything I knew I could.
Spencer, a 5-10 guard, won’t score as many points down low as his teammate, but has proven to be deadly from long-range.
Three games after his friend went for 38, Spencer surpassed the 30-point mark himself by going off for 31 during the Rams 87-78 triumph over Lakes.
“He doesn’t miss when he catches fire,” Christian said. “You just want to keep getting him the ball when he starts hitting. It helps me too because his defender has to stay on him. It makes it easier for me to get to the basket.”
In addition to his career-best scoring effort against the Lancers, Spencer has surpassed 20 points four times this year, and added 26 points against 4A Issaquah.
“Jeremy’s been resilient. He’s been consistent. He’s had one really bad game shooting against Gig Harbor, but that’s been it,” Brown said. “He’s just so sneaky quick. He’s sneaky long. He’s sneaky athletic and he can put the ball in the hole. Both of them can. Both work hard at it. They’re just fun kids to coach.”