Before the game, as spectators endeavored to fill the grandstands and a pep band blared some upbeat tunes, you could tell this was not an ordinary junior high school basketball game.
Indeed, the specialty of the occasion came not only from these two rivals, Leota and Timbercrest, playing for the league title, but that many of the kids are teammates on the same Woodinville Select Basketball Team.
So the gymnasium at Leota Junior High was the scene for this civil war of the hard courts. And the fans weren’t disappointed, as Timbercrest fended off a resilient Leota squad 40-36 to win the championship. Timbercrest finished with a 10-0 record while Leota ended up at 8-2, with both losses coming by way of Timbercrest.
Both teams started the game a bit tight, with Timbercrest leading after the first period, 8-6. But then things loosened up, and shots started dropping a little more. There was noticeable hustle from players such as Nash Fouch, Brett Accimus and Srinu Koritela from Leota, as well as Johnny Bell and Tyler Rod from Timbercrest.
Heading into the final quarter, Timbercrest led 29-22 and it looked like victory was inevitable. But then Leota mounted a rally. When Cade Beresford knocked down a free throw with 3:00 left in the game, the Timbercrest lead was down to a mere 35-31.
But in the game’s final minute, as Timbercrest preserved the lead by running off some clock, they attempted a shot and missed – before Ty Wyrick zipped into the lane to snare the offensive rebound – and that sealed the deal.
Final score: Timbercrest 40, Leota 36.
In the game’s noisy aftermath, as the two teams congratulated each other and the band started up again, Timbercrest’s Matthew Schram was asked what it was like playing against his buddies from Leota.
"It was fun," Schram said. "Sometimes we would laugh it off and sometimes it made us play harder, for the smack talk and having bragging rights after this."
"There will definitely be a little bit of bragging," Timbercrest’s Andrew Ng said. "It’s going to be fun. I think this will motivate them harder to practice, and so next time it will be harder to beat them."
When asked for the key to victory, Ng said, "Our coach is great. He made all this possible."
The Timbercrest coach is Duayne Primc, and he spoke of his team’s balanced attack on offense.
"We haven’t relied on one or two guys all year," he said. "We’ve had about six games where every kid has scored. It’s pretty cool. So everybody chips in their part, and when we need a bucket, they get it to the open guy and they usually come through.
Photo by Dale Garvey. Leota’s Brett Accimus (#12) attempts a shot while being guarded by Johnny Bell of Timbercrest