The Blazers’ reward for their win was a third-place finish at the 3A West Central/Southwest District tournament, but more important than that, the win guarantees Timberline a trip to the state tournament regardless of how they do at regionals.
Timberline, which knocked off the Rams, 67-55, to send North Thurston to the district’s No. 4 seed, finished the final WIAA RPI rankings at No. 5. The Rams, champions of the 3A South Sound Conference, clocked in at No. 12.
The top eight teams in the rankings receive secured berths into state, which begins February 28 at the Tacoma Dome. The next eight teams will all play loser-out contests at regionals.
The ranking system takes into consideration such components as winning percentage, opponents winning percentage and strength of schedule.
Garfield (24-1) wrapped up the top seed and were followed by No. 2 O’Dea (23-3), No. 3 Lincoln (23-1) and No. 4 Kelso (20-4).
Timberline, led by Wichita State signee Erik Stevenson, will face Kelso at Battle Ground High School on February 24 at noon.
After finishing second in the 3A SSC, the Blazers knocked off Stadium (77-48) and Prairie (74-63) in the first two rounds at districts before falling to previously undefeated Lincoln (76-54) in the semifinals.
Timberline (19-5) rebounded from that loss to defeat the Rams for the third seed. North Thurston (21-3) won both regular season meetings against the Blazers, winning 63-58 on December 15 and 67-65 on Gunner Nielsen’s buzzer-beating layup on January 24.
Stevenson, a 6-foot-4 senior guard, paces Timberline in almost every statistically category. The school’s all-time leading scorer with more than 1,600 career points, Stevenson leads the squad in scoring (24 points per game), rebounding (6.3), steals (2.9) and blocked shots (1.5), and is second on the team in assists at 3.2 a contest.
Eli Morton, a 5-10 senior guard, is second on the team in scoring, averaging 13.5 points a game and first in assists at 5.1 a game.
The Blazers also receive 9 points a game from senior guard Casson Rouse and 8.2 an outing from junior guard Hunter Campau.
Timberline will face a 20-4 Kelso team that is playing its best basketball of the season. The Hilanders are coming off a win over previously undefeated Lincoln (62-49) to win the West Central/Southwest District championship game.
Kelso brings a 15-game winning streak into its regional matchup against the Blazers with one of those victories coming at the district semifinals when the Hilanders stopped North Thurston, 67-58.
While Timberline is making its sixth consecutive appearance at regionals, the Rams are making its first trip since 2012.
North Thurston, led by conference most valuable player Jeremy Spencer and first-team all-conference selection Clay Christian, will face Seattle Prep (16-10) at Tumwater High School 4:00 p.m. on February 24.
The Rams (21-3) opened the season with a program-best 19-game winning streak before losing their regular season finale to Peninsula. After knocking off Hudson’s Bay (96-63) and Spanaway Lake (67-64) at districts, North Thurston will look to shake a two-game losing skid when it plays the Panthers.
Seniors Spencer and Christian have formed one of the top scoring duos in the state with Spencer averaging a team-high 21.5 points a game, and Christian adding 20.2 points a game. Junior Tim Tenkley, the team’s only non-senior, is third in scoring, averaging 11.6 points per game.
The Rams will square off against a streaking Seattle Prep squad, which will have an overwhelming size advantage as the Panthers’ roster features a pair of 6-10 centers.
Seattle Prep finished second in the Metro Mountain Division and third districts with the program’s top victory coming in a district quarterfinal win over top-ranked Garfield.
North Thurston last played at the regional round in 2012 when the Rams lost 56-37 to White River. The team last advanced to the state tournament in 2007.
Joining the Blazers and the Rams at regionals will be the Black Hills girls. The Wolves came up short in their quest for a third consecutive 2A District 4 championship as they lost to conference rival W.F. West, 66-44, in the title game.
Black Hills (18-5) was able to cut the deficit to 27-26 at the intermission, but fell victim to W.F. West’s hot shooting in the third quarter as the Bearcats’ cushion ballooned to 19 points at the start of the fourth.
Wolves’ sophomore Megan River led all scorers with 18 points, while teammates Jordyn Bender and Maisy Williams added 9 and 8 points, respectively.
Black Hills will face Liberty (14-11) in a loser-out game at regionals. The game is set for 8:00 p.m. on February 23 at Tumwater High School. The Wolves enter regionals ranked ninth, while the Patriots are ranked No. 16.
The winner will advance to the first round of the 2A state tournament, which begins on February 28 at the SunDome in Yakima.