The Lincoln High School boys basketball team is still undefeated.
But just barely.
Trailing by a point with less than 30 seconds to play in a Class 3A West Central/Southwest bidistrict semifinal game on Wednesday night, Timberline’s Erik Stevenson dribbled upcourt.
He crossed the ball to his right hand, and Le’Zjon Bonds slapped it away.
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Bonds slipped behind Stevenson, corralled the ball at the top of the key, and dribbled in for an easy
That gave Lincoln the lead for the final time — in a thriller that had 23 lead changes and eight ties — and the third-ranked Abes held on for a 70-67 win at Olympia High School.
“Somehow, we made some plays,” Lincoln coach Aubrey Shelton said.
“Le’Zjon Bonds — can’t believe that. He’s been sick the last two days, throwing up all day.
“Then he comes out here and plays really well, and makes the play of the game. Wow.”
Both teams already are guaranteed a trip to the Tacoma Dome based on the WIAA’s RPI rankings — Lincoln is fifth, Timberline sixth. Both can lose a regional game next week and still advance, rendering Wednesday’s game statistically meaningless, but that didn’t diffuse energy from either side.
“It might not matter for the regionals, but we would love to win another district title,” Shelton said. “None of these guys have one at Lincoln. That would be unreal for us.”
The Abes (23-0) will play Wilson (17-5) for the district title on Saturday at Puyallup with just as much vigor.
“We’re obviously excited,” Lincoln guard Trevante Anderson said. “We came in the locker room pumped up. We’re excited. We’re ready on Saturday.”
And the Blazers (17-6) will look at Saturday’s third/fourth-place game at Mount Tahoma against Spanaway Lake (16-7) as an opportunity for improvement.
“We’ve just got to get better, and we can get better, and that’s something we’re looking forward to doing,” Timberline coach Allen Thomas said.
“We’re excited to still be able to play for third and fourth, knowing that we’ve already kind of punched (our ticket) to the Dome.”
Perhaps this was just a preview of what’s to come — the two would meet again in the regional round if Capital loses its winner-to-state game on Saturday.
“You’ve got to have short-term memory in this game,” Thomas said. “Yeah, it didn’t work out tonight, but we’ve got to show character, keep our heads held high, and push forward.”
Timberline did almost pull off the upset, though.
The Blazers, led by Stevenson’s team-high 22 points, rocketed to a 9-0 lead and held the Abes scoreless for almost three minutes.
“We scouted them pretty good,” Thomas said. “We knew exactly what they were going to do. We wanted to try to get off to a hot start, and we actually did this time around.”
But Lincoln rallied to tie the game by the end of the first quarter, 13-13, and the margin of difference never reached more than five points after that.
Lincoln led, 36-32, at halftime.
“To their credit, they took a punch and their bench guys came in and were very productive. … They just weathered the storm early on,” Thomas said.
Davis Harris scored 12 points off the bench — including two free throws that gave Lincoln a three-point lead with 6.9 seconds remaining in the game — to complement Anderson’s team-high 22.
But Timberline had three players in double figures to keep the score tight. Tariq Romain added 14 for the Blazers, while Hunter Campau had 11.
Lincoln entered the final period with a one-point lead, but Timberline tied the game at 55-55 with 5:13 to play on a Campau 3-pointer.
The lead changed eight times before Bonds’ game-winning layup.
“That’s a really, really good team,” Shelton said. “They’re tough. They’re talented. I thought they gave us their best shot.
“We didn’t win because they played bad. They hit three straight 3’s by three different guys in that fourth quarter when we had a lead, and that turned it.”
But Lincoln turned it back.
Following Harris’ two free throws, the Blazers launched two 3-pointers that missed the basket.
The second, a prayer from the corner by Eli Morton, rattled out, but drew a foul. None of the three free throws fell, and Anderson grabbed the final rebound as time expired.
“It really did not come down to Eli’s free throws,” Thomas said. “Obviously we would love for them to go in and still be playing, but we hurt ourselves. We had plenty of opportunities.”
Anderson said that was one of the closest games Lincoln has played — he tossed up a buzzer-beater earlier this season during a trip to California.
“That’s a really good team,” Anderson said. “I felt like we came together at the end and strapped up on defense, and the guys came through.”
Stevenson countered: “We’ve grown a lot through the season. I feel like if we play them early on, like Game 5, they probably beat us by 20 or 25. It showed we have a lot of toughness.”
Capital 58, Kelso 53: Luke Layton scored 24 points in the Cougars’ win. Capital advanced to the finals in the consolation bracket, and will host North Thurston at 1:45 p.m. Saturday.
North Thurston 59, Central Kitsap 55: Clay Christian scored 18 points and Tim Tenkley added 14 to pace the Rams to victory. RJ Secrest had 20 points for the Cougars, and Jayden Upshaw chipped in 18.
Lincoln 13 23 15 19_70
Timberline 13 19 18 17_67
L – Anderson 22, Amen 5, Linton 5, Bonds 6, Thomas 9, Deloney 3, Braggs 3, J. Dillingham 1, Harris 12
T – Romain 14, Campau 11, Morton 9, Stevenson 22, Faalogo 4, Bush 5, Thompson 2