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T-Birds ride stellar defensive performance to win over Bearcats

Jan. 10—Box Score

At Tumwater

T-BIRDS 54, BEARCATS 40

W.F. West 9 10 14 7 — 40

Tumwater15 17 8 14 — 54

W.F. West (40) — Klatush 11, Eiswald 9, Hoff 8, Westlund 7, Jones 3, Shoepf 2

Tumwater (54) — C. Morgan 21, B. Morgan 10, Dillon 7, Anthony 6, Campbell 6, Wilson 2, Konrad 2

TUMWATER — The Tumwater Thunderbirds had won their most recent game entering Wednesday's matchup with W.F. West, but the stench of a five-game losing streak that included a tight loss to Black Hills still lingered.

The T-Birds responded in a big way on Wednesday, stifling the W.F. West offense and handing the Bearcats their first league loss of the season with a 54-40 win.

"A win is fantastic here," Tumwater coach Josh Wilson said. "We needed that. We had to get our ship right ... I'm just glad we got the win."

Not only did the win get the T-Birds back to .500, but it also gave Wilson win No. 100 at Tumwater.

The Thunderbirds (6-6, 4-1 2A EvCo) held the Bearcats to just two points in the game's final five minutes and limited Tyler Klatush to just 11 points.

The Tumwater defense placed an emphasis on defending Klatush closely, as they didn't want him to heat up similar to how Simon Nysted did for Black Hills last week. In that game, Nysted drilled six threes and scored 27 points.

"That provided clarity moving into this game," Wilson said. "We try to hang our hat on being a defensive team ... Our guys really locked in on him, did a good job, and kept everybody else at bay."

The Bearcat offense never got going in the first half, as they scored just 19 points and were often out of sync.

"We just weren't mentally locked in tonight," W.F. West coach Chris White said. "We just weren't on the same page with each other. ... Quite a few hollow possessions and poor execution."

In the first half, Clay Morgan helped the Thunderbirds build a 32-19 lead by drilling five threes, and with each one, he became more energetic, celebrating and igniting the student section.

"We've been in the gym shooting a lot, so I'm not surprised that he was shooting the ball well," Wilson said. "He's a really good player, and we need him to play well for us to do well as a team."

Wilson also commended Morgan's ability to drive inside, which he did in the second half. He finished with a game-high 21 points.

W.F. West's best stretch came at the beginning of the second half, when they went on a 12-0 run to cut the deficit to just one. Lucas Hoff scored eight of those 12 points, including two 3-pointers.

On the other end, the Bearcats (8-4, 5-1 2A EvCo) held the T-Birds scoreless for more than six minutes, yet Tumwater was able to end the quarter on an 8-2 run to push their lead back to seven.

"I really liked that third quarter," White said. "I thought we had a real defensive spark. We went a long time without letting them score. And then finally, they rattled off a few."

W.F. West ran into some foul trouble in the fourth, and with three minutes remaining, Tumwater went on a 9-0 run to put the game out of reach.

"That (foul trouble) really kind of hurt our defensive energy that we usually really draw towards," White said.

Parker Eiswald finished with nine points, Hoff added eight, and Grady Westlund tallied seven. Both Eiswald and Westlund finished with eight rebounds. Bryce Morgan added 10 points for the T-Birds, while Jake Dillon logged seven.

The Bearcats are still atop the 2A EvCo standings at 5-1, but Shelton and Tumwater now sit just a half-game back at 4-1.

Wilson reflects on time with Bakamus

On Tuesday, longtime Mark Morris coach Bill Bakamus announced his intention to resign at the end of this season.

Wilson, a Mark Morris alum, played for Bakamus while he was there, and he had nothing but positive remarks when thinking back on his time with him.

"He's the best coach I ever played for," Wilson said. "I'm just thankful that I was able to play for him, learn from him, learn what it's like to build a program."

While Bakamus' basketball resume, one that includes nearly 700 wins and 13 state trophies, is among the best in Washington history, Wilson will always remember him more for the impact he made on those around him.

"He's a one of a kind human being," Wilson said. "I've never met anyone like him, I don't anybody else has either ... Billy B. is one by himself."