The community supporting the Taholah boys and girls basketball programs had plenty to celebrate on Thursday as both the Chitwhins and Lady Chitwhins defeated Naselle to sweep 1B District 4 titles at Montesano High School.
BOYS PREP BASKETBALL
Taholah 58, Naselle 53
In what turned out to be a thrilling game that came down to the wire, the Taholah Chitwhins made the clutch plays late to pick up a 58-53 victory over the Naselle Comets to win the 1B District 4 title.
Taholah (18-3 overall) started off hot, scoring 18 points and holding an eight-point lead. Izaiah Mowitch and James Orozco did the scoring for the Chitwhins in the first quarter, scoring 10 and eight points in the frame, respectively.
Taholah stretched its lead out to 13 points at 33-20 by halftime, led mostly by Mowitch, who had 23 points a the break.
But Naselle (16-6) responded with a better defensive effort in the third quarter, holding Taholah to just 10 points in the period, while hitting three 3-pointers and scoring 15 points to close the gap. Kolby Glenn led the Comets with seven points, including two 3-pointers, as Naselle chipped away at the Taholah lead.
Naselle eventually pulled to within a point of Taholah in the fourth quarter when Ethan Lindstrom buried a corner-three to make it a 47-46 game with 5:55 to go.
Orozco scored inside the paint to make it a 49-46 ball game 30 seconds later, but Naselle completed the comeback on its next possession, tying the game at 49 on a three from Glenn with 4:50 left.
From that point on, it was back and forth as the teams tied or traded leads three more times down the stretch.
Down by two with just under three minutes left, Taholah fed Mowitch once again and 6-foot-2 junior produced, scoring in the paint to tie the game at 53.
After Naselle’s Chase Haatia missed a pair of free throws, the Chitwhins took a 55-53 lead when Eli Waugh found Mowitch alone under the basket for a score and a 55-53 lead with 1:22 to play.
Mowitch would ice the game approximately a minute later, receiving a long pass and scoring down low with 25 seconds left to play, setting off a jubilant celebration from the large Taholah contingent that packed the stands at Bo Griffith Memorial Gymnasium.
“We had to do it for our seniors, they’re pretty emotional when it comes to losing,” quipped Mowitch, who had a monster game with 34 points. “But we wanted to do it for them and work hard.”
Mowitch said the key for Taholah was returning to what it does best after Naselle had taken a late fourth-quarter lead.
“We just had to post up and work with our bigs inside because they didn’t really have anyone to stop us inside,” he said. “And we just needed to keep defending their shots so they couldn’t get open shots.”
“Our goal this game was to control the tempo,” Crossguns said. “If we could control the tempo against this team and pound the ball inside-out, we were going to get (the district title). We hustled, worked as a team, executed our offense and played our reservation-style basketball, which is fast and go. And it was beautiful basketball.”
Crossguns added the victory was a special one for the Chitwhins as they reached a major goal and earned a trip to the state tournament.
“It brought me back in time and made me fell young again,” Crossguns said of the post-game celebration before crediting his players. “Izaiah Mowitch stepped up tonight and did his job. He’s been our workhorse all year and took care of everything we needed to do. Eli Waugh made all the hustle plays, James Orozco had the perfect drives when it was time, Tommy Underwood made some big free throws when we needed them. It was a team win. Practicing all year long to adjust from having a bunch of star players to being a team was the key to getting this championship.”
GIRLS PREP BASKETBALL
Taholah 50, Naselle 40 (OT)
The Taholah Chitwhins scored as many points in a four-minute overtime as they did the entire second half to pull away from the Naselle Comets 50-40 in the 1B District 4 Championship game on Thursday at Montesano High School.
In a low-scoring, physical contest that saw neither team hold more than a four-point lead through the first 16 minutes of play, Taholah (15-7) trailed 21-20 at the half.
The Lady Chitwhins appeared to be determined to defend their district crown after the break, opening the third quarter on a 10-1 run, taking a 30-22 lead on Ruby Pope’s 3-pointer with 4:45 left in the period.
“We told them they had to read the referees,” Taholah head coach Fred Pope said on his halftime discussion with his players. “(The referees) don’t adjust to us, we have to adjust to them. They were letting Naselle play so we said, ‘Hey, if they’re going to let them play then let’s play too.’ So we were able to play more aggressive and get the ball down low.”
But Taholah went scoreless the rest of the period, allowing Naselle (11-9) to pull to withing two at 30-28 after a pair of free-throws by Lauren Katyryniuk with 11.8 seconds left.
The Comets took a 31-30 lead on a Katyryniuk three at the 6:15 mark.
Taholah tied the game at 33 when Nakeah McCrory scored from the post and the Lady Chitwhins took 35-33 lead after a free-throw each by Natayla Russell and McCrory on two separate trips down the court.
But Naselle’s Delaney Kragenrud banked in a shot with 50 seconds left to tie the game at 35 and neither team would add another point in regulation as the game headed to overtime.
Taholah struck first in the extra period when Ashley Hidalgo hit a jumper at the 3:15 mark of overtime.
After the teams traded buckets and free throws, Taholah found itself trailing 38-37 after a Katyryniuk free-throw with 1:54 left on the clock.
But this young Taholah team, which was hit hard by graduation, refused to let the moment overwhelm them. Angel Ancheta hit a pair of free throws to give the Lady Chitwhins a 39-38 lead with 1:30 left.
On the ensuing possession, a Precious Crossguns steal and layup gave Taholah a 41-38 lead with 1:15 to go.
A possession later, Hidalgo put the nail in Naselle’s proverbial coffin, drilling a three to put the Lady Chitwhins up 44-38 with 55 seconds left in overtime.
Taholah was able to hit enough free throws down the stretch and prevent any further damage from the Comets to secure the 50-40 district-championship clinching victory.
“I was just open and they told me to shoot it, so I shot it. I was just kind of feeling it,” Hidalgo said of her clutch long-range bomb, one in which she threw her arms up in victory as she headed back down the court. “I was just really proud of our team because we are a really young team. … Everyone doubts us. … I wanted us to make a statement tonight and to show we are more than what they think we are.”
Pope said the toughness of the non-conference schedule helped mold his young team into the champions they have become.
“Playing the teams we’ve played this year, the non-conference games, helped us get to where we are,” he said. “The Adnas, the Neah Bays, the Hoquiams, that prepared us for tonight. We took our lumps early in the year, but our girls developed a mentality that when it’s crunch time, they can do it. They believed in one another and overcame. … It’s incredible. Having to start all over, that development they’ve made from day one to know is believing in that they can win, no matter what the score. … They did a great job tonight and I’m proud of them.”
Hidalgo led Taholah with 12 points followed by McCrory (10 points) and Ancheta (8 pts.).