Though it may not have appeared so, the Hoquiam Grizzlies entered Thursday’s regular-season finale against Montesano with pressure on their shoulders.
The deck was stacking up against the Grizzlies as star guard Michael Lorton Watkins was doubtful due to illness and Hoquiam needed a victory and an Elma loss to Eatonville if it was to secure the league’s No. 2 playoff seed.
With all that against them, the Grizzlies also had to win on Montesano’s home court, never an easy task regardless of record.
When the dust settled, everything fell into place for the Grizzlies as they finished second in the 1A Evergreen League with a 54-28 victory.
With Lorton Watkins ill and thus limited in his availability, his teammates stepped up in his stead.
After a slow start, Hoquiam took a 14-4 lead at the end of the first quarter thanks in large part to senior forward Justice Stankavich, who scored seven points in the frame.
A low-scoring second period followed, with the teams combining for 17 points total as the Grizzlies took a 24-11 lead at the half.
Hoquiam took control of the game early in the second half, opening the third quarter on a 15-0 run en route to a 22-6 period, allowing the Grizzlies to let their reserves hold down a 29-point lead entering the fourth quarter.
“We picked up our running game and shared the ball a bit better,” Hoquiam head coach Jeff Niemi said of the third-quarter surge. “As a coach, you are worried about a letdown (after a win over Eatonville on Tuesday), but it was good to see the kids just try hard.”
Lorton Watkins led Hoquiam with 10 points and seven rebounds in approximately 12-14 minutes on the court.
Though Lorton Watkins was the only Grizzy to score in double figures, he had plenty of help on the offensive end.
Ten different players got on the stat sheet for the Grizzlies, including Stankavich (9 points, 5 rebounds, 5 assists), Zander Jump (9 points, 6 rebounds) and Aiden Butcher (9 points, 7 rebounds), each with nine points on the evening.
“Michael was way less than 100%,” Niemi said of Lorton Watkins, who scored 34 points in the Grizzlies’ win over Eatonville on Tuesday and is the front-runner for the league’s MVP honor. “He played light minutes and I thought the guys did a good job stepping up in his absence.”
Hoquiam was 22 for 59 from the field (37.2%) and 7 of 15 from the free-throw line (46.6).
The Grizzlies outrebounded Montesano 46-33, including 19 offensive rebounds and had five different players record five or more boards.
Montesano was led by guard Christian Olsen and forward Cam Taylor with 10 and eight points, respectively.
The Bulldogs shot 25% from the field on 12-of-48 shooting and committed 19 turnovers to 13 for the Grizzlies.
With the win and Elma’s 88-67 loss at Eatonville on Thursday, the Grizzlies will enter next week’s 1A District 4 Tournament as a No. 2 seed and will host either La Center or Seton Catholic in a first-round game at 6 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 10.
“With the travel, I think it matters,” Niemi said of hosting an opening-round game. “I’d much rather play at home than travel three hours and play.”
The Hoquiam legend and first-year Grizzlies head coach added his team is excited to be in the playoffs, having missed the postseason last year and with their 2020-21 season preemptively cancelled by school officials.
“These guys have never had the opportunity to even play in a playoff game, let alone at home. So that is pretty fun,” he said. “Nothing is easy in districts, but as a No. 2 seed I think it is set up a little better for you. We are pretty darn excited to have a home playoff game at Hoquiam Square Garden next Friday.”
Eatonville 88, Elma 67
Facing a tall task in taking on league-champion Eatonville on the road with second-place on the line, the Elma Eagles were close for three quarters, but the Cruisers got hot in the fourth to hand Elma an 88-67 loss on Thursday in Eatonville.
The game was close until late in the third quarter, when the game began to slip away from the Eagles.
“Things unraveled from there,” Elma head coach Matt Ferrier said. “Poorly timed missed shots, free throws and a few passing miscues cost us. We battled so hard. Got great contributions from everyone who played.”
Eatonville (12-7, 7-1 1A Evergreen) got hot in the fourth quarter, hitting five 3-pointers to take control of the game.
Elma (10-7, 4-4) was led by junior guard Cason Seaberg, who scored 22 points, had four rebounds, four steals and a thunderous one-handed dunk in the fourth quarter.
Traden Carter (13 points, 3 rebounds, 3 assists) and AJ Holmes (12 points, 13 rebounds) also scored in double figures for Elma, which will enter the district playoffs as either the third or fourth seed.
“Incredibly proud of our boys,” Ferrier said. “Season looked like it was heading for disaster two weeks ago, but we have rebounded and are playing better basketball. Excited that our record is back to zeros and we will be ready for the district tourney.”
WF West 78, Aberdeen 52
Aberdeen’s season came to an end with a 78-52 loss to WF West on Thursday in Aberdeen.
The Bobcats (4-14, 4-8 2A Evergreen) fell behind 21-6 after one quarter and never recovered, trailing 35-25 at halftime and were outscored 42-27 in the second half.
Manny Garcia and Baylor Ainsworth led Aberdeen with 13 points apiece for a Bobcats team that went 19 for 57 from the field (33%), including 9 of 23 from the 3-point line (39%).
Aberdeen collected 31 rebounds as a team – led by Trey Anderson and Jabron Brooks with six apiece – and committed 10 turnovers against the third-place Bearcats (14-6, 8-4).
Raymond 81, South Bend 46
Raymond closed out its season with an 81-46 Senior Night victory over Pacific County rival South Bend on Thursday in Raymond.
Raymond (10-10, 6-6) took an 18-8 lead after one quarter and was in complete control of the game after a 22-7 second frame.
The Seagulls outscored South Bend 41-31 in the second half to claim the victory and finish the season in fourth place in the 2B Pacific League.
“It was good to finish out our regular season on a high note. The team was fired up for senior night, and it showed in our play,” Raymond head coach Mike Tully said. “We really moved the ball well offensively and we were able to get everyone in the scoring column. It was a great team win and a good way to head into district.”
Daniel Medeiros (16 points), Talan Yearout (14 points), Kai Heuy (11 points) and Skyler Hutson (10 points) each scored in double figures for the Seagulls.
Raymond honored seniors Morgan Anderson, Colby Branham, Malachi Duckworth, Jarrod Gunderson, Heuy, Hutson, Medeiros and Iyven Perez on Senior Night.
“I’m proud of our seniors and the hard work that they have put in this year,” Tully said.
South Bend (3-16, 1-11) was led by Ty Reidinger and Ferrill Johnson with 13 and 12 points, respectively.
Raymond will face Adna in the 2B District 4 Tournament on Saturday in Montesano (time to be determined).
GIRLS PREP BASKETBALL
Mossyrock 53, Willapa Valley 35
Willapa Valley will enter the playoffs as the 1B Columbia Valley League’s No. 2 seed after a 53-35 Senior Night loss to Mossyrock on Thursday in Menlo.
The Vikings (14-6, 10-2 1B Columbia Valley) trailed by just two points at 10-8 after one quarter but saw third-ranked Mossyrock push the lead to 27-10 by halftime after dominating the second, thanks in large part to nine Vikings turnovers in the frame.
From 6:42 in the second quarter until early in the third Willapa Valley went scoreless, a span of approximately eight minutes.
Aside from that, Willapa Valley held court with Mossyrock, being outscored 26-25 in the second half.
The Vikings were led by Grace Huber (13 points, 6 rebounds, 3 assists), Brooklyn Patrick (11 points, 11 rebounds, 2 assists) and – along with fellow senior Gaby Quezada (2 points, 5 rebounds) – were called “great leaders” by Willapa Valley head coach John Peterson.
The Vikings went 15 for 40 from the field (38%) to go along with 32 rebounds and 19 turnovers as a team.
“It was unbelievable, the effort they gave,” Peterson said of his team. “I don’t have the vocabulary to describe how proud I am of them.”
Willapa Valley will play either Columbia Adventist or Three Rivers Christian on Tuesday in Menlo (time to be determined).
Boys Prep Basketball
Ilwaco 74, North Beach 33