It didn’t take T.J. Mickelson long to get accustomed to postseason play.
Playing the majority of the fourth quarter with four fouls and constantly drawing double-teams, the Black Hills sophomore delivered in his first playoff game.
Mickelson scored 26 points, dished out four assists and pulled down four rebounds as Black Hills opened the 2A District 4 boys basketball tournament with a 46-43 victory over visiting Washougal on Saturday.
“It’s been a long time since Black Hills has won a playoff game,” said Mickelson, who played all but 32 seconds of the game and scored eight of his team’s nine fourth-quarter points. “We missed the playoffs last year and had to watch so that was definitely a motivation for us.”
Black Hills, the No. 2 seed out of the 2A Evergreen Conference, advances to Tuesday’s quarterfinals, where the Wolves (13-8) will face 2A Greater Saint Helens League champion Mark Morris (18-2), the defending district champion.
“Last year at this time, the kids were hitting baseballs and golf balls,” Black Hills coach Jeff Gallagher said. “They’re going to be fired up to play Mark Morris. These are the teams you want to be playing.”
Mickelson opened the fourth with a 3-pointer to give the Wolves their largest lead of the game at 40-26, but with 6:45 to play, the guard was called for an offensive foul — his fourth of the game.
Gallagher pulled his star immediately, but trustingly inserted Mickelson a mere 9 seconds later.
“That’s probably the longest he’s been out the entire season,” Gallagher said. “He has such a unique skill set and disposition. He never wants to come out.”
Wolves forwards Kyler Noyen and Tremarcus Hackney also picked up their fourth fouls midway through the fourth, and the Panthers took advantage, going on a 12-2 run over the next 41/2 minutes to cut the deficit to 42-40.
Mickelson, however, continued to attack, driving the lane on the following possession and splitting a pair of defenders before laying it in to increase the lead back to four points.
“Just keep being aggressive,” said Mickelson about his mindset after picking up his fourth foul. “I tried to just keep going at them. This was playoff basketball. Everyone was getting fouled hard.”
Mickelson split a pair of free throws with 8 seconds remaining, giving Black Hills a 46-43 lead.
Washougal (15-7) was able to push the ball upcourt and got a great look at the potential game-tying 3-pointer, but Ryan Taylor’s shot hit the front of the rim as the buzzer sounded.
Casey Duff added seven points for the Wolves, while Hackney produced two of the game’s best highlights.
The senior’s putback dunk late in the third quarter pushed the lead back to double digits at 37-26.
He later registered a huge block midway through the fourth quarter.
Yorro Bah paced the Panthers with 10 points.
Mickelson put his stamp on the game early, scoring 15 points and handing out four assists in the first half to help Black Hills hold a 28-19 cushion at intermission.
Mickelson struggled with his outside shooting early, missing his first two 3-point attempts, but was productive driving the lane and getting to the free throw line. He hit all four of his free throws in the first quarter, guiding the Wolves to a 15-9 lead.