Capital 64, North Thurston 59
(Olympia, WA) The Capital Cougars had already wrapped up the #1 seed to the District Tournament and claimed a minimum of a share of the 1st ever SSC boys basketball title when they entered the game Tuesday night against North Thurston but Coach Brian Vandiver had no intention of letting up and resting any of his players. Vandiver said you can’t do that with the new format and right now the Cougars are 5th in the statewide RPI and being in the top is a huge advantage if you advance to Regionals. On top of it the Rams are the lone league loss the Cougs have suffered and it was senior night where Capital was celebrating their graduating 5 seniors.
North Thurston came in tied with Central Kitsap for 3rd and was trying to position themselves into as high of finish as possible for decent seeding into the District Tournament. They were tied with Central Kitsap but had swept the Cougars to own the tie-breaker and needed to win their final 2 games to clinch the 3rd seed. So there was plenty to play for as the ball tipped off.
The last thing on anyone’s mind was Capital losing a key player likely for the rest of the season. TJ Mickelson likely fractured his collarbone after hitting the floor hard with just 1:14 left to play in the game. TJ chasing a loose ball jumped high when another player caught his feet and spun him hard downward onto the floor where he hit his shoulder and head. It was reported he was knocked out but was answering questions when paramedics arrived. We were told that TJ complained of some neck pain and he was immediately immobilized but he had movement in his arms and legs. The game was stopped for about 25 minutes while TJ was attended too. The well attended game quickly was dead silent and remained that way until TJ was wheeled off the floor to a standing ovation with his teammates next to him.
The game was nip and tuck from the beginning as both offenses struggled to get started. With 3 minutes to play the Cougs held an 11-6 lead but the Rams would end the quarter on a 9-0 run to take a 15-11 lead. Tim Tenkley, Jeremy Spencer and Aaron Stone finished the quarter hitting 3-point shots. Spencer then began the 2nd quarter hitting a 4th 3 in a row for the Rams for an 18-11 lead. Both teams would then go ice cold and no one scored until Capital’s Chris Penner hit a 2 point bucket to make it 18-13. The Cougs had gone nearly 7-minutes without scoring a point and 4-minutes in the 2nd quarter without a point but the Rams could not take advantage with only 3 points to that point.
Capital kept coming back and was within 1 points 24-23 as time ticked down on the half. TJ Mickelson got the ball and stepped back releasing a high floater that found nothing but net as the buzzer sounded giving Capital the lead at the break 25-24.
In the 3rd quarter both teams found their offense with the Rams scoring 21 and Capital 19. North Thurston took the lead on their own buzzer beater when Spencer hit as time expired. Clay Christian started finding his groove on his way to 20 points. Capital’s Chris Schnellman was solid in the paint scoring a big shot with about 4:30 to play in the 3rd and was fouled. Schnellman hit the free throw and this would earn out ProActive Physical Therapy Play of the Game as it tied the game at 34.
As they headed into the 4th quarter neither team would give in as they went back and forth. Matt Mickelson would really hit his stride scoring 11 of his team high 17 in the 4th quarter. Matt hit 2 big free throws with 1:33 to play to give the Cougs a 58-53 lead.
Then it happened. As the Rams rushed to get a shot off the ball was free and TJ Mickelson went after it when he got flipped literally on his head. When play resumed the Cougars were able to maintain their lead and notch the win. There was no celebrating as both teams certainly were thinking about TJ.
It was later reported that TJ has a broken collarbone and suffered a major concussion. After further testing hospital officials told ESN he was released and sent home to rest. His season and high school career has certainly come to an end with this unfortunate accident. We do want to stress this was not a dirty play and it didn’t even draw a foul call it was simply 2 athletes giving their all and freak timing was the cause.
Our Tommy Lowe of the Greene Realty Group Players of the Game went to Capital’s Matt Mickelson and to North Thurston’s Jeremy Spencer.
Capital: Matt Mickelson 17, TJ Mickelson 16, Chris Penner 16, Chris Schnellman 10, Luke Layton 5
North Thurston: Jeremy Spencer 21, Clay Christian 20, Aaron Stone 11, Gunner Nielsen 4, Tim Tenkley 3