Battling wire-to-wire with the No. 5 team in the state, in front of its home fans, and in just its fifth game of the month after a slew of postponements and cancellations, the W.F. West boys basketball team picked up its most important win of the season Tuesday in a 54-51 upset of Tumwater.
Soren Dalan had a game-high 18 points to go along with 15 rebounds and five blocks, and Dirk Plakinger had 16 points, but it was again a team-wide effort that made the difference in the Bearcats (7-6, 4-2 2A EvCo) win.
“Really proud of my guys’ toughness and determination, and couldn’t be more happy for a Tuesday night,” Bearcats coach Chris White said. “It’s huge. I keep telling my guys, if you can just believe in each other and keep trusting things, don’t worry about stats and getting yours, just play selflessly, and just find your niche.
“Guys are starting to believe that and we can build off that.”
White rattled off every Bearcat that played Tuesday night when asked who stepped up, with foul trouble being an issue in the first half, and players stepping up to challenges they hadn’t conquered yet this season.
Seth Hoff, who scored 10 points, made the go-ahead 3-pointer with just over a minute to play moments after Tumwater’s Luke Brewer drilled a trey to give the T-Birds the lead.
Gideon Priest, who has played sporadically this season, started off guarding the Thunderbirds’ (12-3, 7-1 2A EvCo) leading scorer, Brewer, and held the point guard to just two points in the first half.
Charlie Mallonee came off the bench and guarded Washington football commit and four-star tight end Ryan Otton. Evan Tornow started for the Bearcats and added leadership and four points Tuesday. The contributions were across the board.
“Our minds are growing,” White said. “We’re trying to realize that we can be really good if we play hard and stop overthinking the game. I applaud my guys as fighters and never quitting. Couldn’t be prouder.”
For the Thunderbirds, it’s their first defeat within the borders of the state of Washington, and their first league loss.
A tough first half that saw the high-powered offense score just 21 points, was greatly improved in the second half, thanks to Brewer getting going and in a rhythm while avoiding foul trouble. Brewer finished with 15 points.
While Brewer, and second-leading scorer Andrew Collins, and post presence Otton all sat on the bench during much of the first half, the T-Birds bench kept them in the game, keeping the deficit at just three by the halftime break.
“(The foul trouble) disrupted a whole bunch of things in the first half,” T-Birds coach Josh Wilson said. “I’m proud of my guys off the bench because I think they did a good job riding it out.”
Behind Brewer’s 15 points, Adam Overbay was the only other Thunderbird in double figures with 12 points in a rough night shooting. Though they clawed their way back into the game after trailing by as much as seven, they couldn’t make enough shots down the stretch to steal another league win.
Brewer’s 3-pointer with just over a minute left was answered immediately by the Bearcats’ Hoff drilling a 3-pointer right back. After trading blows and a couple made free throws from Dalan, the T-Birds had a chance to tie it up late. Connor Hopkins was fouled on a 3-point attempt with five seconds left, but only made his first free throw.
After Dalan missed the front end of a one-and-one moments later, Tumwater turned it over without getting a chance to tie the game or take the lead. The Thunderbirds last gasp attempt at the buzzer, a full-court heave from Luke Reid, hit rim and bounced off.
“There’s a lot of learning lessons,” Wilson said. “If we take care of the basketball and finish our lay-ins it could’ve been a different game. Just battling through adversity in a tough environment. Sometimes things don’t go your way but you have to be proud of the effort, we played hard. We didn’t have shots falling, and credit to W.F. West.”
Wilson commended the play of Seth Weller, Brayden Oram, and Tanner Brewer for stepping up in the first half while his normal starters had to sit with fouls.
The T-Birds will look to rebound against Centralia on Thursday at home, while the Bearcats take on Black Hills on the road.