Tumwater High School opened its doors in 1961 and wasted little time capturing its first football league championship, doing so in the Thunderbirds’ third season.
An additional 24 league crowns have since followed.
So, what about the T-birds boys basketball team? Well, they needed a bit longer to secure a first league title — half a century, to be exact.
David Cooper made sure the 53-year drought finally came to an end, scoring 27 points to help Tumwater claim the 2A Evergreen Conference title with a 63-51 victory over cross-town rival Black Hills on Friday.
“The kids have just worked so hard for this moment,” said Tumwater coach Thomas Rowswell. “We wanted to get off to a fast start. That’s something we haven’t done the last few games, but tonight David got us off to that fast start. He’s worked as hard as anyone for this. I am just happy for him and the seniors.”
The T-Birds (17-3 overall, 6-0 EvCo) have won 15 of their last 16 games and will take the No. 1 seed into next week’s 2A District 4 tournament.
Tumwater also received 17 points from Weston VandenHazel.
T.J. Mickelson scored a team-high 20 points for the Wolves (12-8, 4-2), who enter the district tournament as the second seed.
Cooper, the EvCo’s reigning most valuable player, scored 20 of his points during a first-half performance that likely helped the senior wrap up a second consecutive MVP honor.
Tumwater led 33-21 at the half behind Cooper’s stellar effort.
The senior guard closed out the first quarter with a flurry, hitting his final four shots from the field — including both 3-pointers he fired up.
The Wolves tried to counter with Mickelson, but the gifted sophomore’s shot seemed off at times, with four potential baskets rattling out.
Unable to match Cooper’s offensive onslaught, Black Hills saw the deficit grow to 33-17 late in the first half after Cooper connected on a pair of 3-point plays.
While Cooper dominated the first half, the T-Birds turned to the inside play of VandenHazel in the third quarter to extend their lead.
At 6-foot-10, the sophomore center controlled the paint on both ends of the court in the third quarter, registering a pair of blocks and scoring eight points as Tumwater’s lead surged to 20 points at 46-26.
The Wolves found some life late in the third, getting a 3-pointer from Mickelson and a pair of baskets from Chandler Yount during an 8-0 run to pull within 10 at 46-36 late in third quarter, but failed to get any closer.
Black Hills (14-7 overall, 4-2 EvCo) will enter next week’s 2A District 4 tournament as the conference’s No. 2 seed.
Tumwater (9-11, 1-5) will host Rochester at 7 p.m. Tuesday in a district play-in game. The winner will play 2A Greater St. Helens League champion Mark Morris in the first round of district play.
Tumwater’s Sierra Snyder led all scorers with 18 points.
Ali Smith was the only T-Bird to hit a shot from the floor in the first half as the Wolves raced out to a 34-13 halftime lead.
Tumwater got a bucket from Smith early, but failed to make another field goal until there was 49 seconds remaining in the first half — when Smith connected on her second basket.
By then, Black Hills had already established a commanding 20-point cushion.
Emma Duff’s 3-pointer with 0.7 seconds left in the first quarter pushed the Wolves’ advantage to double digits for the first time at 16-5.