Allen Thomas will go back to the drawing board.
He has that luxury with 10 of the 12 players on his roster set to return for next season. But his Timberline High School boys basketball team is going to have to learn how to compete with Seattle’s Metro League if it hopes to make a deeper run next year.
Timberline trailed by 12 before it scored its first basket and never caught back up in a 71-53 loss to No. 8 Seattle Prep in the first round of the 3A state tournament on Wednesday inside the Tacoma Dome.
“It was us not being ready for the moment,” Thomas said. “I thought we had a good game plan. We knew exactly what they were going to do.”
Seattle Prep advances to the 3A quarterfinals to face Lincoln (25-0) at 3:45 p.m. Thursday – a team Kelly said he’s watched a few times this season.
Timberline missed its first 11 shots of the game before Erik Stevenson scored off a Seattle Prep turnover with two minutes remaining in the first quarter.
And the Blazers could only hope that 6-foot-9 Collin Welp missed his shots. He didn’t. The son of the late University of Washington legend Christian Welp scored a game-high 22 points with seven rebounds and buried Timberline late with a pair of 3-pointers.
“Starting off with tons of fire and energy at the Dome – it’s super important,” Welp said. “And starting off 1-0 is huge.”
Just think of where Timberline would be if it didn’t start off so sloppy.
The Blazers kept pace with Seattle Prep the rest of the first half, trailing 31-21 at the break. The Panthers needed every bit of that 12-point handicap.
Then Stevenson got loose. He opened the second half with a layup and a 3-pointer to cut Prep’s lead to 31-26.
“I did not like how the third quarter started,” Seattle Prep coach Mike Kelly said.
So Seattle Prep extended its defensive pressure, Timberline turned it over on three of its next five possessions and the Panthers suddenly had a 15-2 run.
Nic Lynch, Seattle Prep’s 6-foot-10 center, he and Welp helped the Panthers outrebound Timberline, 34-22.
“I’m not that tall, but there aren’t many people who make me look small and Nic does,” Kelly said.
“There’s not a whole lot of fear for us going into games. Teams playing Metro, I think it’s hard for them to catch the pace of the game. I think Lincoln is capable of that, but for most every other team it’s hard for them to understand the pace of the game.”
Timberline’s season ends with losses in three of its final four games – against Lincoln, West Seattle and Seattle Prep.
Stevenson entered the state tournament averaging 20.3 points per game. He scored 10 points against West Seattle and nine against Seattle Prep.
Experience certainly played a factor. Timberline was making its first Tacoma Dome visit since 2013. Seattle Prep’s seniors, especially Welp and senior point guard Aaaron Nettles, were here two seasons ago.
“I had been telling our guys just from watching games all day – do not settle for jumpers in this gym on the first day,” Thomas said. “There’s no way. But when you’re young, you’re ambitious and you’re open, that shot is enticing and you want to take it.”
Tariq Romain and Hunter Campau each scored 12 points to lead the Blazers.
Now Lincoln will see if it can handle one of these mighty Metro schools – it lost to Rainier Beach and Cleveland at state last year.
“I’ve seen them a few times and they play very skilled and very confident,” Kelly said. “(Lincoln coach) Aubrey Shelton always does a great job of getting kids to play really hard.
“Trevante Anderson is a special player and they have a lot beyond him. They have a lot of pieces.”
TJ Cotterill: 253-597-8677
SP: Stricklin 10, Trifunovic 5, Woodward 2, Nettles 6, Gale 9, Flor 5, Welp 22, Lynch 12
T: Romain 12, Campau 12, Morton 4, Stevenson 9, Faalogo 6, Bush 2, Thompson 4, Warick 2, Melad 1, Zaragoza 1