Timberline High School boys basketball coach Allen Thomas has been preaching defense since the Blazers returned from Christmas break.
“We’ve been talking about closing out, getting better, not giving up middle penetration and just basically controlling the game on the glass,” Thomas said.
What does Timberline have to show for the extra work?
Thursday night at Saint Martin’s University, the Blazers held Emerald Ridge, which sits atop the Class 4A South Puget Sound League, to its lowest point total of the season.
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Timberline closed off the perimeter early and often, and controlled the Jaguars in the paint, on its way to a dominant, 62-41, nonleague rout.
“I thought we finally stuck to the game plan today,” Thomas said. “The biggest, No. 1 thing, was us being committed to playing defense.”
Jaelen Bush, who led all scorers with 21 points, gave Timberline the lead for good late in the first quarter, and an explosive 20-point second quarter gave the Blazers a 36-25 lead at the break.
Four consecutive layups by Bush — a 6-foot-8 senior, who shot widely uncontested throughout the game — continued to pad Timberline’s lead midway through the third quarter.
“I just trusted what my coaches have been telling me, and doing the same thing I’ve always done, just executing,” he said.
Eli Morton pushed the margin to 20 points on a 3-pointer with five minutes to play, and Emerald Ridge never got closer.
Erik Stevenson added 14 points for the Blazers, while Hunter Campau had 12 — all on 3-pointers.
“Even in our tough losses, I don’t think our problem is scoring,” Bush said. “Every game, somebody steps up and gets the scoring going. I think we decided today to move our feet, and not foul on defense, and that’s what really kept us in the game.”
The Jaguars struggled to find the hoop throughout, and were limited to nine points in the third quarter and seven in the fourth.
Caleb Goodspeed, who had 10 points for Emerald Ridge, was the only player to score in double figures.
Emerald Ridge (6-3), typically sharp from long range, was consistently stymied on the perimeter.
“That was the one thing we wanted to take away,” Thomas said.
Thomas said he thinks the Jaguars — which beat 4A SPSL frontrunner Curtis earlier this month — are a top 10 program in 4A.
“We knew what they were capable of,” Thomas said. “I think when you come into a game and you respect your opponent, you’re going to do what you need to do on defense.”
Timberline (5-3) enters a five-game swing of 3A South Sound Conference contests beginning with road trips to Gig Harbor and Shelton next week.
“No game is promised,” Thomas said. “We’ve got to go into it thinking that our backs are against the wall, and keep coming together as a family. Then, the sky’s the limit for this team.”
“As the season goes on, we’re more comfortable with each other,” Bush said. “There’s more trust.”
ER – Benjamin 3, Gregory 9, Boston 9, McGuire 2, McClain 9, Goodspeed 10
T – Romain 4, Campau 12, Morton 7, Stevenson 14, Faalogo 2, Bush 21, Warick 2