These two programs will not see each other again this season, but could wind up in similar places by the end of it.
Timberline High School and its former Class 3A Narrows League rival, Foss, squared up in a nonleague season opener on Tuesday night, and it proved a good barometer for what the postseason could look like.
The Blazers held off a few late surges to beat the Falcons, 80-70, at Foss, but both showed early flickers of what contending teams tend to look like.
With the first set of the WIAA’s newly implemented Ratings Percentage Index rankings scheduled to be released on Jan. 1, Timberline, which is now a 3A school, and Foss, now a 2A school, could see favorable returns.
“I think it’s a great measuring stick for us,” Timberline coach Allen Thomas said. “This is the first time we’ve beat Foss in about a decade.
“If they come together as a team, I think the sky is the limit for that program. So, for us to come on the road and play a team like this, who is going to continue to get better, that’s great for our program.”
Foss took an early lead, aided by a pair of buckets from Boise State commit Roberto Gittens, who scored a game-high 32 points.
But, the Blazers gained traction quickly. Erik Stevenson, a Timberline junior, batted a long inbounds pass away from two defenders, and drained an uncontested 3-pointer at the first quarter buzzer to make it 19-18.
The Falcons never regained the lead from that point, despite trimming Timberline’s lead — which at one point in the third quarter grew to 18 points — to single digits a handful of times in the second half.
“When we cut it to single digits, it was really just a lack of concentration, and not staying with our guys, and giving up a couple looks over the top,” Foss coach Mike Cocke’ said. “You can’t win if that’s what you do in those situations.”
Each time it seemed the Falcons were on the cusp of a comeback, Timberline stifled it.
“You’ve got to keep chipping away,” Cocke’ said. “They’re not just going to give you the game.”
Timberline remained collected, and had eight different players — including Stevenson (18 points, 10 rebounds) and Tariq Romain (14 points, 10 rebounds) — connect from the floor.
“Between Tariq Romain, Erik Stevenson and Eli Morton, I thought they did the trick tonight,” Thomas said.
Morton, a junior, who transferred from Wilson last season, led the Blazers with 20 points.
“In the second half, we had to overcome adversity, and we did, and I think that’s a really big step for the team,” Morton said.
“We’re envisioning a lot of balance,” Thomas said. “That’s the keyword today is balance. For the season, being all in. This is just one step towards our goals.”
Goals that likely include a trip to the Tacoma Dome in March.
Timberline has advanced to the state playoffs each of the past four seasons, but has lost in the regional round the past three years.
And, Foss, after dropping classifications, has been mentioned early as a team that has the potential to advance deep into the weekend in Yakima.
So, like Thomas said, this was a good barometer.
“4A to 3A, supposedly it’s tougher, but that doesn’t change what we do,” Stevenson said. “We know it’s about RPI this year, so we scheduled a pretty tough nonleague (schedule).”
The Falcons cut Timberline’s lead Tuesday to seven after back-to-back baskets by Demetrius Crosby — who added 16 points for Foss — but the Blazers made three free throws down the stretch to ice it.
“If you lose, you want to lose early,” Cocke’ said. “You want to learn and grow from it, and I hope we can do that. They have to make a choice who they’re going to be as a team, and what their identity is going to be.”
T – Eli Morton 20, Erik Stevenson 18, Tariq Romain 14, Jamin Faalogo 9, Jaelen Bush 7, Terran Melad 5, Jake Williams 5, Isaac Thompson 2.
F – Roberto Gittens 32, Demetrius Crosby 16, Paul Banks 9, Micah Pollard 7, Antonney Henry 2, Damani Kelly 2, Rakim Nelson 2.