A week removed from a 30-point loss to Napavine at their place — on Senior Night and on the final night of the regular season — the Adna boys basketball team played the ‘ole Uno reverse card on the Tigers, spoiling the Central 2B League champions’ first game in the 2B District 4 tournament in a 62-59 win Wednesday night in Chehalis.
The win propels the Central 2B fifth-seeded Pirates into the district semifinals against Wahkiakum next week in Kelso.
“It’s the most fight we’ve shown for a full game,” Adna coach Luke Salme said. “And it's the most committed we’ve been to doing a job and executing a gameplan. It was all about toughness and willingness to grind and overcome adversity, and continuing to believe.”
Instead of letting the Tigers jump out to an early lead against them — which the Pirates had allowed in each of its first two meetings, and losses, with Napavine — Adna struck early and often Wednesday night with a new-look defense.
Adna’s frenetic defense gave Napavine fits in the opening frame, with Braeden Salme tasked with guarding and boxing out Tiger big Karsen Denault, and Asher Guerrero serving as the primary defender for Napavine’s James Grose.
Holding Napavine to just 10 first quarter points, the Pirates took a 19-10 lead into the second quarter. That set the tone for the rest of the game for Adna.
“We talked about that pregame,” Luke Salme said. “Win the first quarter, and let’s give ourselves a chance. They put it to us early in both games. Let’s show ourselves that we can fight and win the first quarter. After that, we had some work to do. It wasn’t a perfect 32 minutes but it was a pretty damn perfect 24 minutes or so.”
The Pirates took a 29-22 lead into the halftime break, containing pretty much every Tiger save for Grose, who scored 14 of Napavine’s 22 points.
Then the cat-and-mouse game began in the third, with Napavine coach Rex Stanley opting to run a 1-3-1 to create some pressure and throw a new look at the Pirates — and it worked.
Adna took a 34-24 lead midway through the third, and promptly let the Tigers go on a 20-4 run over the final stretch of the third to allow Napavine to take a 44-39 lead into the fourth in the blink of an eye. Grose had 28 points through three quarters, with Denault finally finding ways to score in transition to give Napavine a lead.
But over the game’s final minutes, the Pirates would find more and more ways to respond when they needed to. Seth Meister and Salme hit some timely 3-pointers against the zone, and Eli Smith took matters into his own hands on several occasions for more timely buckets in the paint.
Salme finished with a team-high 22 points, with Eli Smith adding 16 and Meister scoring 12. Lane Johnson hauled in 10 rebounds and Salme grabbed another eight.
“We talk about adversity all the time,” Luke Salme said. “I knew all along that they were going to go on a run. To stick to it, they created some really bad turnovers and made us look bad for a stretch there, but to keep fighting was big, and we made some big plays.”
Braeden Salme tied the game at 52-52 with under two minutes to play on a long ball, with a foul on the floor simultaneously. Smith made one such timely bucket at the end of the shot clock on a drive, and after another stop on defense, Salme drilled another 3-pointer to cap an 8-0 run in a span of less than a minute in the game’s most pivotal stretch.
From there, the Pirates drilled free throws late, and prevented Napavine from getting close to tying the game by holding Grose to just five points in the fourth quarter — including a too-little, too-late 3-pointer that came at the buzzer.
Napavine was led by Grose’s game-high 33 points, with Denault adding another 15. The Tigers will take on Forks in a loser-out consolation bracket game on Friday.
The Pirates, meanwhile, will face an old enemy in Wahkiakum — who also had a lot of success against them in the regular season — next Wednesday in Kelso.
“We will re-gameplan in the next day or two and have a few practices to get ready for it,” Salme said. “A bit of rest in the next few days will be well-earned, but it's more of the same in this district tournament. You have to show up every single game.”