T-Birds Pull Away From Rapids, Clinch Regional Bid


TUMWATER — It’s not how you start, after all; it’s how you finish.

The Tumwater girls basketball team looked lost for the first eight minutes of its district semifinal matchup against Columbia River at Black Hills on Monday, and never totally found its groove offensively. But the Thunderbirds let their defense lean on the Rapids for four full quarters, and put together a run at the right time to come away with a 49-39 victory that sends them to the district title game and earns them a regional bid.

“The fact that we were able to close it out today, I’m pretty proud of the girls,” Tumwater coach Nathan Buchheit said. “At this point, it’s survive and advance, and you’ve just got to figure it out.”

Tumwater trailed for the first 15 minutes of gameplay, and saw a small lead disappear with two minutes to go in the third quarter. A Kylie Waltermeyer 3-pointer and a Regan Brewer jumper at the buzzer gave the T-Birds a four-point lead going into the fourth quarter, but six minutes later, it was down to one at 40-39, with the Rapids — who had scored a third points at the free-throw line, going 13 for 16 at the stripe — in the bonus.

But the T-Bird defense, which had definitely bent at times, never broke, keeping the Rapids off the scoreboard the rest of the way.

“I trust that even if things aren’t going our way, I know that we’ll outwork the other team,” Brewer said.

Brewer started it, kicking off the final 120 seconds with a 3-pointer in the corner to give the Thunderbirds just a bit of breathing room. Setting up at the top of Tumwater’s bread-and-butter full-court pressure, the junior harried the Rapids before drawing a charge at halfcourt to get the ball back. On the very next possession, Brewer lost the ball, but drew enough contact going after it to draw another foul — and a technical when the Rapids argued a bit too much.

From there it was a parade of free throws — Brewer hit four, and Waltermeyer added two — as the defense held, over and over.

Waltermeyer led all scorers with 26 points, 15 of which came in a clutch second quarter that gave the Thunderbirds a slim halftime lead after falling in a 16-7 hole after a quarter of play.

Brewer added a 16-point, 10-rebound double-double, with five assists and three steals to boot. 

“They’re both great players,” Buchheit said of his two leaders. “Just allowing them to do what they do best — not telling them too much, and just go — is probably the best thing we can do for them. They read the game so well.”

Rhylee Beebe had seven boards, and Kendall Gjurasic logged three steals and four boards.

Tumwater will get three days to prepare for its district title matchup against W.F. West, slated to take place Friday at Hudson’s Bay. The T-Birds split their two regular-season matchups with the Bearcats, falling at home while Waltermeyer was still out with an injury, and gritting out a close win with her back on the court.

“I think we really need to want it more than them,” Brewer said. “If we want it more than them, we will have it.”