LONGVIEW — The Tumwater boys basketball team continued its perfect start in the state of Washington, defeating district rival Mark Morris at the Martin Luther King Jr. Basketball Tribute at Lower Columbia Community College Monday, 64-52.
In an ugly game from the start, the Thunderbirds needed every one of their 64 points, and game-high 23 from junior guard Luke Brewer, to pull one out against a Greater St. Helens League power.
“That was a grinder, there wasn’t anything really pretty about that one,” T-Birds coach Josh Wilson said. “We just gutted that one out. They’re tough, they’re always tough. Exposed us on the offensive glass, they killed us there but we grinded it out and got it done. That’s what matters.”
Brewer’s 23 points and five 3-pointers kept the T-Birds in the game throughout, but it was Andrew Collins and-one basket, and timely 18 points, that pushed the Thunderbirds over the top in the victory, especially given a large rebound disadvantage.
With 6-foot-6 forward Ryan Otton in foul trouble in the first half, the Monarchs punished the T-Birds on the glass, and got 21 points from guards Kobe Parlin and 14 from Deacon Dietz, mostly on second chances.
“We got our heads in the game,” Brewer said on pulling out the win. “Those initial turnovers killed us, we got our heads down but we got back into it after getting our heads straight. The rebounding is what killed us.”
Otton came back in the second half and blocked three shots, and though the Thunderbirds still had a hard time getting possession after stops, Brewer said those blocks gave them the added energy they needed.
“He’s a huge presence inside,” Wilson said. “When he’s not in the game it makes things different.”
But behind another 20-plus point outing from Brewer, who lavished in breaking the Monarchs’ press, the T-Birds overcame their rebounding woes.
“I love playing against pressure teams, it always opens up,” Brewer said. “I love pressure, I love initial pressure at halfcourt so I can get in front of them and dish to the post or an easy foul or jumpshot in the key.”
Both Brewer and Wilson acknowledged that they would need to play much better as a team to accomplish their goals, especially on the offensive end, where they are just finding their rhythm after most of the players who also play football joined the hoops team late. But behind Brewer’s steady leadership, Tumwater’s start could not be much better.
“Luke’s a stud, he’s smooth,” Wilson said. “He just takes care of it. He’s not overly flashy, necessarily, but he’s a good player and he gets it done. He’s just figuring out now how good he is, he has a high ceiling. This is just the start.”
Junior guard Connor Hopkins was the only other Thunderbird in double figures with 10 points.
The win means that the T-Birds have still not lost within the Washington border, and are 10-2 overall with a 6-0 league record. They’ll take on Aberdeen next on the road on Friday.