BRUSH PRAIRIE — This one was for Coach Brooks.
After an emotional pre-game tribute to the 20th-year Prairie boys basketball coach, who has been hospitalized with Guillain-Barre syndrome since Jan. 3, the Falcons players honored him the best way they could: by playing hoops. And playing them well.
On the backs of Prairie staples — rebounding and defense — the Falcons steamrolled Timberline 76-52 in the 3A West Central/Southwest Bi-District Tournament game. The Falcons (14-7) advance to play at Lincoln of Tacoma in a winner-to-regionals game on Saturday.
“I was really proud of the way they responded to things,” Prairie interim coach Jimmy Tuominen said. “There’s a lot of stuff going on, certainly tonight. … They handled it with a lot of poise and the things they did on the court, they did with a lot of purpose.”
The 15-minute pregame ceremony included a video presentation that featured several teachers and members of the school, a speech from athletic director Jason Castro and a group picture with the student section, basketball team and coaches.
Brooks will not return for the rest of the season, as he battles the rare disorder that causes the immune system to attack the nerves. It can cause temporary paralysis.
“He’s really been a father figure these last four years,” Prairie senior Zeke Dixson said. “When things got hard, I could go to him and talk to him. … It’s hard without him but Coach T is doing a really good job pushing forward with us.”
Once the affairs got started, Prairie shook off a sluggish start to erupt in the second quarter. Prairie finished the second period on a 24-6 run, as the trap defense captained by AJ and Zeke Dixson troubled the Blazers offense.
The burst gave Prairie a 46-26 lead at the break, and the margin remained around 20 the rest of the way.
“We take a lot of pride in our defense,” Zeke Dixson said. “I think we have one of the best defenses in the state. If we can keep that up, we can go far.”
Zeke Dixson finished with 22 points, Aidan Fraly added 15 points and three steals and Reece Walling scored 12 points and hauled in 12 rebounds.
Walling’s success on the glass helped Prairie to a 41-25 advantage on the boards, as Prairie collected 18 offensive rebounds.
“We really feed off each other,” Walling said. “When we get a couple things going, we’re hyped and it’s hard for other teams to stop us.”
Prairie turns its attention now to an Abes’ squad (15-6) that beat the Falcons 54-50 in December. The Falcons were without starters Zeke Dixson and Mark Frazier in that contest. That game is slated for 7 p.m. Saturday at Lincoln. With a win, the Falcons will return to the state regionals for the third consecutive year.
PRAIRIE 76, TIMBERLINE 52
Timberline (7-15) — Logan Campau 0, Nic LeDoux 3, Jeshua Hardie 4, Brooklyn Hicks 21, Joseph Piccolomini 0, Alex Wright 6, Cameron Hines 0, Ahren Bee-Richards 3, Jackson Brown 3, Alex Tichenor 2, Devin Wilson 0, Lysander Moeolo 2. Totals 19-50 (5-18) 11-15 52.
Prairie (14-7) — Jimmie Barton 4, Treyce Teague 0, Zeke Dixson 22, AJ Dixson 0, Mark Frazier 6, Gabe Lilly 6, Hayden Rose 9, Aidan Fraly 15, Reece Walling 12, Nick Baker 0, Kory Terrell 0. Totals 29-65 (6-13) 10-12 76.
Timberline 15 11 14 12—52
Prairie 17 29 14 16—76