T-Birds Fall to Lumberjacks in Physical District Semifinal


TUMWATER — The Tumwater boys basketball team has gotten to know R.A. Long pretty well over the past couple of years. The Thunderbirds knew more than enough about Cavin Holden’s scoring capabilities, his supporting cast’s sharpshooting prowess, and the Lumberjacks’ full-court pressure on defense.

But Tuesday evening at Black Hills, in a 2A District 4 semifinal showdown, the T-Birds found out about a different side of the R.A. Long coin. These Lumberjacks can win shoving matches as well, and did so aplenty in a 64-56 victory that made it three straight over Tumwater dating back to last postseason.

“They were super physical with us and pushed us around all night,” Mark Morris coach Josh Wilson said. “Those two things — their physicality and the rebounding — really got to us tonight.”

The Thunderbirds didn’t let Holden make a field goal for the first 14 minutes of gametime, and he went 0 for 8 from beyond the arc. But every time the RAL senior star drove, he drew the T-Birds defense around him, leaving other Lumberjacks open. And when they missed their shots, as often as not they’d get another crack at it after securing an offensive rebound.

R.A. Long outscored Tumwater 26-14 in the paint over the course of the night, and the Thunderbirds finished with just 18 total rebounds.

“I thought they were more physical than last year, by far,” Wilson said. “They were just hungry. Coach Jeray (Key) said that was one of the better games they’ve played, and I believe that. They just came out and were ready to go. Hat’s off to them for playing as hard as they did.”

And while Tumwater did its best to limit Holden — who still finished with 22 points to lead the Jacks, going 12 for 13 at the line — R.A. Long did the same to Luke Brewer. Tumwater’s leading scorer managed just one point in the first half and finished with 15 on the game, going 5 for 17 from the field and having to earn every little bit of success he could find.

“Luke got real beat up today,” Wilson said. “He fell on the floor three times, chipped his tooth, hit his head on the floor twice. He got beat up tonight. I think our guys competed and they fought hard, no knock on our guys whatsoever; it was just a really physical game.”

Andrew Collins led the Thunderbirds with 19 points, and Luke Reid pitched in 11. Luke Brewer came away with eight rebounds, three steals, and three assists as well, while Collins added two blocks and Reid had three helpers.

R.A. Long took its first lead of the game with 3:20 to go in the first quarter on a transition 3-pointer and never gave it back the rest of the way. The Lumberjacks pushed the gap out to double-digits in the third quarter, with three straight Tumwater turnovers leading to buckets on the other to make it a 17-point game.

But just as the wheels threatened to come off the bus, Brewer calmed things down with a 4-0 run to end the period, and five minutes into the fourth, he drove through contact for a three-point play to make it 57-53. Tumwater got a stop, but one last time, R.A. Long came down with an offensive rebound and a second-chance bucket, and iced the game the rest of the way from the free-throw line.

Tumwater will get a day off to gather itself, with one more chance to punch its ticket to the regional round. The T-Birds will take on Woodland at Mark Morris on Thursday, with the season on the line.

“We’ve got to put that behind us, because all of our goals are still there for the season,” Wilson said. “We can’t say we won a district championship, but all of those other goals are still there, if we try to compete at a high level. We’ve got to regroup, and do our best to finish it out strong.”