After three straight one-and-done trips to Hardwood Classic state high school basketball tournaments in recent years, the Mountlake Terrace Hawks were looking to break that streak at this year’s 3A boys state tourney in the Tacoma Dome.
The Hawks proved up to the challenge; instead of coming home after their opening game, the team has punched their ticket for an extended stay in Tacoma and more contests this week.
In a tight affair on Wednesday, the No. 9-seeded Hawks prevailed over the No. 8-seeded Timberline Blazers 65-62 in a WIAA 3A Boys State Tournament first-round elimination game.
With the win, Terrace is guaranteed games on Thursday and Friday; a victory in either of those tilts will put the Hawks in a Saturday contest — wins on both Thursday and Friday would push Terrace into the 3A state championship game Saturday night.
Wednesday’s game featured 13 lead changes and eight ties.Terrace’s victory was not secured until the final buzzer as Timberline’s Brooklyn Hicks launched a 3-point shot attempt that failed to connect as time ran out.
Even before Hicks’ last-second try to send the game to overtime, the game seemed to be up for grabs. Timberline led at halftime 27-26, but the difference was a single point only because Terrace’s Jeffrey Anyimah — who scored 18 points in the game — sunk an improbable 3-pointer from near the midcourt logo at the halftime buzzer.
Then near the midpoint of the fourth quarter, the Blazers were ahead 54-51 before the Hawks went on a 10-4 run to lead 61-58 with 1:52 to go.
Timberline then closed the gap to 61-60 after Anyimah was called for an illegal screen on an inbounds play, sending the Blazers’ Miles Gurske to the free throw line. The junior converted two attempts, but that would be as close as Timberline would get as Hawks sophomore Zaveon Jones scored down low off an assist from teammate Chris Meegan, extending Terrace’s lead to 63-60.
Vito Mkrtychan added two free throws with 14.5 seconds to go, giving Terrace a 65-60 advantage. Hicks dropped a pair of free throws for the Blazers with 7.9 seconds left, but that would close out the scoring and the Hawks celebrated the 65-62 win.
Jones led Terrace in scoring with 22 points, 10 of them in the final 4:19 of the game and all 10 scored from down low in the lane. Hawks’ Coach Nalin Sood noted that the big 6-foot-2 sophomore’s play in the paint was a key to the victory.
“He’s just got a skill set inside that we’d be foolish not to capitalize on,” Sood said.
But Sood also stressed that it was team defense that ultimately gave the Hawks the win. Timberline came into Wednesday’s loser-out contest averaging 75.6 points per game.
“We kept them below their average and that’s a goal for us because if we can do that it’s going to give you a chance,” Sood stated.
Hicks scored 22 points to lead Timberline. Gurske contributed 21 points and Darell Gipson added 13, but only two other Blazers scored in the game: Alex Tichenor with five points and Tyler No with one point.
Terrace enjoyed its biggest advantage of the contest early in the third quarter at 49-43, but Timberline quickly erased that with an 11-2 spurt. The run was indicative of the seesaw action; each time one team pulled ahead, the other responded, keeping the game tight.
Hawks’ senior Adison Mattix said the team tried not to focus on the score throughout the contest and instead just worked on executing at both ends of the floor.
“We just keep battling,” Mattix said. “We keep our heads down, don’t even look at the scoreboard. We just play our game. That’s all. We just do the things we do and we come out on top.”
Mattix, who will close out his high school career with this week’s tourney games at the Tacoma Dome, is relishing every minute. “It’s such a blast; I love playing with these guys,” he said. “It’s the best.”
Terrace is playing at the Tacoma Dome for the first time since 2013, when the team went 2-1 in 3A tourney games and finished fourth in the state. But from 2017 to 2020, the Hawks went 0-3 in 2A Hardwood Classic tourney contests played at the Yakima SunDome. There the team lost first-round elimination games in 2017, 2018 and 2020.
With Wednesday’s win, this year’s junket into Hardwood Classic action for Terrace will include games each day through Friday and possibly into the final day of action on Saturday, testing the Hawks’ stamina and ability to focus and prepare.
“There’s a lot of stuff to do and there’s only a short time to do it,” Sood said. “So we just try to filter it all down to what’s important. And maybe they take 20, 30% of it to the game and then the rest of it’s going to be their basketball ability and competitiveness. And it’s our job to get 100% and then they can figure out what they need to do.”
“We’re going to try to filter as much as we can on Mt. Spokane — they’re a really good basketball team — and we’ve already started doing a little bit of that,” Sood continued. “And then we just got to go play basketball and see what happens.”
Terrace will take on the No. 7-seeded Mt. Spokane Wildcats in a tourney quarterfinal game on Thursday; tipoff is slated for 2 p.m.
Mattix hopes for great results for Terrace this week. “We’re going as far as we can go,” he said.
In other 3A Boys state tourney results on Wednesday, No. 2 seed Auburn crushed No. 15 seed Kennewick 69-33, No. 4 seed Rainier Beach defeated No. 12 seed Ferris 58-45 and No. 14 seed Eastside Catholic upset and eliminated No. 3 seed O’Dea 48-44.
To view the entire WIAA 3A Boys State Basketball Tournament bracket, click www.wpanetwork.com/wiaa/brackets/tournament.php?act=view&tournament_id=3466.
Prep Boys Basketball: Mountlake Terrace vs. Timberline, March 2 (WIAA 3A Boys State Basketball Tournament elimination game)
Terrace 11 16 18 20 — 65
Timberline 12 14 17 19 — 62
Mountlake Terrace individual scoring: Zaveon Jones 22, Jeffrey Amyimah 18, Chris Meegan 8, Adison Mattix 8, Vito Mkrtychyan 7, Don Brown 2, Jaxon Dubiel
Timberline individual scoring: Miles Gurske 22, Brooklyn Hicks 21, Darell Gipson 13, Alex Tichenor 5, Tyler No 1, Jackson Brown, Kenyon Simmons, Ethan Cornwall, Ahren Bee-Richards
Records: Mountlake Terrace 19-2 overall; Timberline 17-6 overall
Mountlake Terrace next game: versus Mt. Spokane; Thursday, March 3; 2 p.m. at the Tacoma Dome (WIAA 3A Boys State Basketball Tournament quarterfinal game)
— By Doug Petrowski
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