It was common knowledge among some of the local hoop aficionados that Lincoln, Foss and Wilson would be the teams to beat in the 3A ranks. After losing a tight contest the week before to the Foss Falcons, the Mount Tahoma Thunderbirds returned home on Dec. 14 to defeat the Wilson Rams 69-57 to join the local discussion in the early season.
Four Thunderbirds scored in double figures, with Ray West leading the way with 19 points while Brian Neal had 17 and Michael Rollins and Andre Wiley had 14 points apiece.
“Our seniors took over the court with intensity and they beat a good young team tonight,” said veteran Mount Tahoma coach Owen Chambers of his team.
The Thunderbirds’ patience and unselfish ball movement kept them at arm’s length from the Rams all game long.
“That is a good young team who really plays hard,” said Neal. “Tonight was a real dogfight, and we persevered tonight.”
Mount Tahoma got off to a lightning start and never looked back, opening up a 19-3 lead behind seven points from Neal. The Thunderbirds limited the Rams to just 1-for-11 shooting in the first quarter. But Wilson would find their mark in the second quarter, trimming the Thunderbird lead to 31-22 as sophomore forward Alphonso Anderson poured in eight second-quarter points.
Momentum can be a real game-changer, but West took matters into his own hands for Mount Tahoma, scoring seven third-quarter points to stave off a Wilson charge and give the Thunderbirds a ten-point lead heading into the fourth.
The Rams' offense continued to pick up steam, cutting the Mount Tahoma lead to four early in the fourth quarter, but the Thunderbirds maintained their poise for the well-earned win.
Chambers, who notoriously chews gum throughout the game, noted that the game made him go through more than his usual amount. “I lost track of the amount of packs that I went through tonight, but in the end it was well worth it. I hope that we can carry this great effort through the rest of the season and grab one of the four league district berths.”
Over in the Wilson locker room, Rams head coach Dave Alwert reflected on the game that was. “We missed a lot of shots early and dug ourselves a huge hole against a good basketball team. We could not come all the way back, but it was a lesson that we will have to learn if we expect to compete in the very strong league.”
With Lincoln, Foss, Wilson and now Mount Tahoma all in the fold, it should be a great season in one of the state’s best 3A leagues.
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