Fife’s Austin Woods finally got to taste regional basketball success Saturday.
Woods scored 29 points, including 20 in the second half, to lead Fife to a stunning 70-69 victory over Tumwater in a Class 2A state regional showdown at W.F. West High School.
Tumwater entered the game enjoying its best season in school history, winning a league championshp and a district title for the first time in the 54-year history of the program. But Fife, which has nine losses on the season, erased a 13-point deficit in the second half to get the win.
“I am just so proud of how hard these kids battled,” Fife coach Mark Schelbert said. “They were out there playing for each other. We just asked them to play 32 minutes and leave it on the court no matter what the score was.”
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A year ago, Woods suffered a gruesome arm injury during a regional loss to Anacortes, when he put his arm through a window while chasing a loose ball. The injury severed all the tendons and ligaments in his forearm, cut his biceps muscle in half and opened a gaping hole near his elbow.
On Saturday, he hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer of the third quarter to pull the Trojans within 58-45 and spark an 11-0 run.
Fife (16-9) took the lead at 65-63 on Tony Aguilar’s basket with two minutes to play before the Trojans’ advantage grew to 68-64.
Tumwater knotted the game up at 68 following field goals from Ty Gentry and David Cooper.
Free throws from Aguilar and Kyle Mozzone capped the scoring for the Trojans with 55 seconds to play.
Weston VandenHazel split a pair of free throws with 11.6 seconds remaining to produce the final score.
“I am so proud of the heart this team put into not this game, but the entire season,” Tumwater coach Thomas Rowswell said. “The game didn’t go the way we wanted it to, but the way we played did. “
Cooper scored 28 points for the T-Birds. The senior had a chance to hit the game-winner, but his jumper at the top of the key failed to find the mark as time expired.
Cooper only attempted one shot in the first quarter, hitting a 3 on Tumwater’s first possession.
Despite the absence of offense from Cooper, the teams raced up and down the court in the opening eight minutes of play with neither squad missing too many shots and the T-Birds holding a 22-21 lead.
Cooper appeared to twist his ankle while being fouled on a drive through the lane as the senior limped away after the contact.
Rowswell wasted no time pulling his star, keeping Cooper on the bench for two minutes.
Upon return he showed no signs of the injury, scoring 10 consecutive points to give Tumwater a 34-26 cushion with 11/2 minutes to play in the second quarter.
Jephthah Appiah-donkor was unstoppable in the first half, scoring all 21 of his points and grabbing 11 rebounds, but the Trojans still trailed at halftime 37-32. Appiah-donkor finished with 18 rebounds.