The Timberline High School boys basketball team still has the upper hand at claiming its first 4A Narrows League championship, but Malachi Flynn sure did make accomplishing that a little bit tougher.
Flynn scored 16 of his game-high 36 points in the fourth quarter as visiting Bellarmine Prep prevented the Blazers from inching closer to the league crown with a impressive 78-67 victory Wednesday.
Because of the loss, Timberline (12-5 overall, 7-3 4A Narrows) falls into a first-place tie with Stadium.
The two teams meet in Lacey on Feb. 4 in a contest that should decide the league champion.
“The fortunate thing for us is we still have a shot next week at winning the title,” said Timberline coach Allen Thomas, whose team beat Stadium early this season. “(Bellarmine) came in here fighting for their playoff lives and it showed. We just didn’t match their intensity.”
Several times in the early minutes of the fourth quarter Timberline appeared to wrestle away the momentum, only to have Flynn extinguish the Blazers’ fire.
A bucket by Timberline’s Brandell Evans made it a five-point deficit for the Blazers a minute into the fourth quarter.
Flynn responded with his fifth 3-pointer on the Lions’ next possession.
Casson Rouse’s 3-pointer again trimmed Timberline’s deficit to five just two minutes later.
Flynn answered with a three-point play — the first of three consecutive three-point plays for Bellarmine, two coming from Flynn.
In the end, the junior guard was simply too much for Timberline.
“He’s a special player,” Bellarmine Prep coach Bernie Salazar said. “I thought we played great team basketball. We did a great job sharing the ball and taking smart shots.”
In the first meeting, a 74-52 victory for the Lions, Bellarmine got a combined 57 points from Flynn, Joey Bodoia and Rex Bodoia.
In the rematch, the Lions only seemed to need Flynn’s offense.
“We had a game plan to try and slow him down. He’s a tough matchup,” Thomas said. “We scored enough to win tonight. The difference was in our defense. We’ve given ourselves a chance at a league title because of our defense. Tonight it wasn’t there.”
Evans finished with 20 points, and teammate Jarryn Bush added 17 points and 10 rebounds.
Bellarmine Prep (9-8, 4-5) closed out the second quarter on a 13-4 run to take a 36-29 lead at halftime.
Flynn made a trio of 3-pointers, including one late in the first half, and scored 15 points to help the Lions to the seven-point cushion.
Timberline sophomore Tariq Romain was the story early, scoring 10 points during the game’s opening four minutes as the Blazers led 14-7 midway through the first quarter.
Bellarmine Prep clawed back through its perimeter shooting, making five 3-pointers in the first half.
The Lions’ lead grew to a dozen points late in the third. A powerful dunk from Timberline’s Austin Parker and five points in the final 30 seconds helped the Blazers cut the deficit to 49-41 heading into the final quarter.
But thanks to Flynn’s huge fourth quarter, the Blazers were unable to get any closer than five points the rest of the game.