Chris Penner began making his mark on fields and courts in the greater Olympia area as a Capital High School freshman.
He’s still around. And, opponents still have to work hard to keep the ball — basketball or football — out of his hands.
Wednesday night in Lacey, Penner, now a senior, emerged from a multi-player scrum at midcourt with a chance to tie a Class 3A South Sound Conference tilt against Timberline at the foul line with 3.1 seconds left in regulation.
His two free throws sent the game to overtime, where his pull-up jumper in the lane with 1.7 seconds left pushed his team to a 56-54 comeback victory in a battle between the league’s top two teams.
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“Hands everywhere,” Penner said of the tug-of-war in regulation that led to the game-tying points.
But, he might as well been referring to the whole of the fourth quarter and overtime, when he scored 12 of his game-high 19 points.
The Cougars clawed back from deficits that stretched to seven points twice in the fourth, and trailed by four points just after the overtime period starter.
“There were so many times we could have thrown in the towel,” Capital coach Brian Vandiver said. “Our guys just keeping being resilient.”
The victory for the Cougars (13-2) was their seventh straight after two-straight one-point defeats to open the league season, including a 56-55 home court loss to Timberline on Dec. 7. Timberline (11-4) remains the 3A SSC leader by one game despite the loss.
“We had a few chances to seal the deal in regulation,” Timberline coach Allen Thomas said. “We didn’t get enough stops down the stretch.”
Clutch plays and players populated both rosters in a game between two teams that know each other well.
Hunter Campau, a 6-foot Timberline senior, led the Blazers with 17 points. His steal and feed to Trevor Joubert put Timberline up 40-33, and minutes later, as things got tight, his driving basket and then two free throws with a minute remaining in regulation helped the Blazers keep two-possession margins.
Blazer senior forward Ross Jones scored 15 points, including six of his team’s seven points to close the third quarter, which provided a five-point lead before Penner’s buzzer-beating jumper made it 34-31 after three quarters. Joubert also tallied 15 points for the Blazers.
Grant Erickson, a 6-6 Capital senior, scored 14 points, including a putback with 20 seconds left in regulation that got the Cougars within two points. Brandin Riedel, a 6-7 junior, had 17 timely points, including a three-point play in the final minute of overtime that gave Capital its first lead since the second quarter.
But, in the end, it was Penner who wanted the ball. After Erickson fouled Joubert, the senior made one of two free throws to force a tie with 9.8 seconds left.
Then, the veteran nailed the game-winner.
“I knew I was going for it,” Penner said of the decisive shot, which hit rim and backboard before dropping through the net.
C – Gabe Landers 2, Chris Penner 19, Lucas Bowser 4, Brandon Riedel 17, Grant Erickson 14.
T – Hunter Campau 17, Izaiah Jerenz 2, Cole Hicks 2, Ross Jones 15, Trevor Joubert 15, Jeshua Hardie 3.