Thunderbirds Earn Highest State Finish in 46 Years


YAKIMA — This Tumwater boys basketball team, that’s been through a COVID-shortened season, that hasn’t seen a state trophy since 2016, and which ran through the 2A Evergreen Conference before falling in the district championship, got its seniors one more game at state and capitalized. 

If Friday night’s win against Sehome was about getting the Thunderbirds’ seniors one more game, Saturday’s 50-45 win over Port Angeles to capture fourth-place at the 2A State Tournament at the Yakima Valley SunDome was about the seniors propelling them to victory. 

Paced by double-digit scoring efforts from seniors Adam Overbay and Ryan Otton, the T-Birds earned their highest finish at the state tournament since 1976, and just their fourth ever trophy in the fourth-place game Saturday. 

“Otton had a phenomenal game, tough battle for him but he got it done on offense and defense,” T-Birds coach Josh Wilson said. “Adam, you could tell he wanted it. He’s been my hero all year long with his effort and grit and toughness. To see them and Seth Weller come out of here with a trophy, so proud of them, so happy.”

The pair of seniors led the way the full game, with Otton hauling in a monster 12-point, 13-rebound double-double to go along with three blocks, and Overbay scoring a game-high 13 points.

The duo especially helped spearhead a Tumwater attack in the first half that was still getting the grogginess out of their eyes for a 9:30 a.m. start after three tough days of basketball to that point. 

“It took guts, it took a lot,” Overbay said. “Waking up did not feel good. Coach said the first team to get the sleep out of their eyes was going to win. It took awhile for us but we got there eventually.”

The Thunderbirds saw a seven-point advantage in the first half evaporate before their eyes, as the Roughriders put together a 9-0 run to take the lead early in the second half. 

After the teams traded blows for another quarter and a half, the T-Birds tried and true point guard Luke Brewer put them ahead for good with back-to-back 3-pointers to take a six-point lead and hang on for the win in their season finale. 

“Defense, defense, defense, and at the end, a little more defense,” Wilson said of what it took to win a third game in four days. “That was pure grit and toughness down the stretch. We just found a way to get it done. That was our goal, fourth or better. I’m so proud of these guys for sticking to it and accomplishing it, just an amazing group of boys.”

It’s been a historic year for the Thunderbirds in 2021-22, who won the league championship with just one loss in league play, and came within points of a district title. 

For seniors Overbay, Otton, and Weller, it’s not the fourth place finish, but the memories that they’ll remember forever. 

“We’re all good friends and down the road we’ll stay in touch,” Overbay said. “This is something we’ll never forget. I’m never going to forget them, I love them all, and it’s something I’ll keep close to my heart.”