Last season — which was held in the spring of this year — the Willapa Valley Vikings and Hoquiam Grizzlies boys basketball teams gave their fans plenty to cheer for.
The Vikings ended the season by advancing to the season-finale district-title game while Hoquiam and co-1A Evergreen League MVP Michael Lorton-Watkins was red-hot with a 6-1 record before school officials cut the district’s prep sports seasons short.
In the 2021-22 season-opener for both teams, it was the Willapa Valley fans that left the gym happy.
Four different Vikings players scored in double figures and Willapa Valley held Hoquiam to just 15 points in the second half en route to a 66-38 season-opening victory on Tuesday at Hoquiam Square Garden.
Derek Fluke (14 points), Gavin Hampton (13 pts.), Tyler Adkins (12 pts.) and Riley Pearson (11 pts.) each scored in double digits as Willapa Valley (1-0 overall) shot 25-for-50 from inside the arc and dominated the glass with 41 rebounds — 20 of those coming on the offensive end and leading to second-chance points.
The game was close after one quarter, with Willapa Valley holding a tight 16-14 edge as Lorton-Watkins hit a pull-up jumper at the Buzzer to pull the Grizzlies to within a bucket.
But Vikings head coach Jay Pearson made some adjustments in the second quarter, notably calling for his team to box out and crash the boards.
“We tried to go too fast on offense. We were rushing when we had the ball. … And the biggest thing that killed us in the first half was we weren’t blocking out. We probably gave Hoquiam 10-12 points off of offensive rebounds,” Pearson said. “We clamped down on Watkins … Going into the game, we wanted to make him put it on the floor. … Our whole philosophy was one shot, rebound and make him put the ball on the floor before the shot.”
Willapa Valley held Hoquiam to just nine points in the second quarter to take a 31-23 lead into the break and opened up a 14 point lead midway through the third on back-to-back 3-pointers from Pearson and Hampton.
The Vikings capped off the victory by holding Hoquiam to just three points in the fourth quarter.
Willapa Valley had 18 assists as a team, with many of those coming after an offensive rebound.
Hampton — a senior guard who made his first varsity start on Tuesday — led Willapa Valley with eight assists and drew the bulk of the defensive assignments against Lorton-Watkins.
“He saw the floor very well and passed the ball well,” Coach Pearson said of Hampton before joking about the team’s passing ability. “Eighteen assists total for a team is pretty unselfish. Sometimes, I thought we made one too many extra passes. But I’m very pleased for the first time out and what a great atmosphere with the band and the fans. it was just back to reality. We missed that for a year.”
Kelso 62, Aberdeen 31
Aberdeen got off to a sluggish start and struggled to dig out of a hole in a 62-31 season-opening loss to Kelso on Tuesday at Sam Benn Gym in Aberdeen.
The Bobcats had troubles finding any offense in the first quarter, going scoreless until junior guard Kyle Miller scored off an offensive rebound at the buzzer.
Down 18-2 entering the second quarter, Aberdeen (0-1) began to find its footing when senior guard Jacobi Kozak and senior forward Andrew Troeh scored on back-to-back reverse layups, cutting Kelso’s lead to 22-6 with 6:20 left until halftime.
But Kelso was too much for the Bobcats, pushing its lead to 26-6 midway through the frame and holding a 37-10 lead at the half.
After scoring six points in the third quarter — four of those on two field goals from junior forward Kale Goings — Aberdeen scored 13 points in the fourth quarter led by Troeh, who scored seven points over the final eight minutes of the contest.
Goings led Aberdeen with eight points.
The Bobcats went 8-for-14 from the free-throw line, six of those makes coming in the final quarter.
Kelso was led by 6-foot-5 sophomore post player Payton Stewart, who scored a game-high 23 points.
Shelton 55, Elma 34
Elma opened its first season under new head coach Matt Ferrier with a 55-34 loss to Shelton on Tuesday in Shelton.
The Eagles (0-1) managed just 10 points in the first half and didn’t break the 10 -point barrier for a frame until the fourth quarter, where Elma scored 16 points as the outcome was already decided.
Logan Witt led Elma with 10 points and was the only Eagles player in double digits.
“Obviously, as most teams probably did, we had the first game jitters,” Ferrier said of the loss. “Game started helter skelter, but we settled down and made a push to make the first quarter competitive. The game was definitely decided by Shelton’s length. They were huge. Long and athletic is a great gift to have when playing hoops. Their length gave us fits all night. We struggled scoring on them and struggled to rebound with them. Lots of positives to take away from it and we are excited about getting back to work tomorrow.”
Ocosta 60, Oakville 51
After holding a double-digit lead, the Ocosta Wildcats staved off a late rally to down the Oakville Acorns 60-51 on Monday in Oakville.
Ocosta (1-0) led 28-22 at the half and had as much as a 12 point lead in the game before the Acorns made their run.
Oakville cut the Ocosta lead to four points in the fourth quarter, but key fourth-quarter buckets from leading-scorer Josh Figueroa, Xander Prigmore and Mark Lewis, and some defensive stops helped the Wildcats pull away down the stretch to earn the non-league victory.
“Tonight was a good first game for us. We got to experience some pressure down the stretch when Oakville made a run at us,” Ocosta head coach Mitch Quinby said. “Oakville was very impressive inside with a couple of big guys who made life extremely tough on my posts and any guards who tried to score inside. I would venture to guess they had roughly 10-12 clean blocks on our guys. Overall, a good learning experience for my extremely inexperienced team.”
Figueroa scored 22 points, grabbed 10 boards and dished out six assists for Ocosta.
Lewis added 12 points and seven boards for the Wildcats.