NAPAVINE — The game between two powerhouses, the two squads that met last spring for a district championship in Napavine was everything it was cracked up to be.
Every blow answered with another uppercut, punch after punch, but in a physical matchup between Kalama and Napavine Friday night, experience prospered.
The Chinooks, led by Jackson Esary’s 15 points, 11 rebounds, eight steals and three blocks, triumphed once again over the upstart Tigers, 57-50.
“This is like a district tournament game,” Tigers coach Rex Stanley said. “They are won or lost in the last four minutes, the competition is that tight. This was like that.”
Napavine hung around with a hotter-shooting Chinooks squad, pulling a small deficit to just three with under three minutes to play, but an 8-1 run for the Chinooks, mostly caused by Napavine turnovers, ultimately did the Tigers in.
The Tigers (7-2, 3-1 C2BL) had 16 turnovers, and the Chinooks scored 21 points off those miscues.
“They’re a quality team, shots are hard to come by and we didn’t get many second ones,” Stanley said. “It’s just one of those games. It seemed like every time we were about there, we’d miss a shot or turnover it over. That was the game.”
James Grose led the way for the Tigers with a game-high 20 points on 8 of 22 shooting with three shots from deep, while Keith Olson dropped 17 points and 15 rebounds and Jarin Prather hit three treys and scored 13. They were the only players to score for Napavine.
On the other side, Esary stuffed the statsheet, but Max Cox scored a team-high 17 points with three makes from distance, and Dylan Mills scored 15 to go along with Esary’s 15. Esary shot 7 of 20 from the field, with his primary defender being the much-shorter Cael Stanley.
“He did a great job, when you guard Esary it isn’t just one on one, it was a collective effort,” Rex Stanley said. “For the most part I thought we did a good job, he’s just a tough cover.”
But in the final moments, with the game on the line, Kalama’s six seniors came up big, and the Chinooks turned it over half as many times as the Tigers throughout the game.
The Tigers won’t have long to think about it, as they head out to Willapa Valley Saturday to take on the Vikings in a non-league matchup.
“The good thing about this group is we have guys that play multiple sports, they get it,” Stanley said. “They get where we’re headed and where it’s really going to count. We’re back at it tomorrow, which I like. We head out to Willapa Valley tomorrow and we try to get better tomorrow.”