Tigers Into Semifinals After Defense-Driven Win


ROCHESTER — The offense never truly showed up in full force for the Napavine girls basketball team coming off an extended break, but the Tigers did more than enough on the other side of the ball to roll into the semifinals of the 2B District 4 tournament, beating Wahkiakum 49-26 on Tuesday.

“Our staple is our defense,” Napavine coach Shane Schutz said. “It’s been that way all year. When things don’t go right offensively — and that’s a credit to Wahkiakum, they played great defense today — we’re still able to win.”

The two teams combined to miss their first 11 shots of the night, but once the Mules finally broke the deadlock three and a half minutes into the game, the Tigers went right back on lockdown. Napavine ground its way out to an 8-2 lead after a quarter of play, and it would be another nine minutes before Wahkiakum found the bucket again.

Napavine needed nearly the entire first half to crack 20 points — getting to 21 on an Avery Schutz floater — but still led 21-4 at the break.

The Tigers finished the night with 25 turnovers forced, and held the Mules under 20% from the field. Napavine’s own offense never put in more than 16 points in a quarter, but the defense made sure that was never an issue.

And now that his squad is entering the postseason, Schutz is more than okay with winning ugly.

“When you get to the state tournament, you’ve got to be able to defend,” he said. “Those games are going to be 38-34, or 42-40, or 48-46. It’s not going to be an offensive show, so I was proud of our kids to be able to come out and struggle, but persevere.”

Morgan Hamilton led the Tigers with 13 points. Taylen Evander and Grace Gall both added nine points for Napavine, and Danielle Tupuola scored eight.

All told, Napavine had eight players get onto the scoresheet, and all of them got there within the first three quarters.

“We don’t have an elite scorer; we have a bunch of kids that can score,” Schutz said. “We feel like that philosophy gives us the best chance to win.”

Keira O’Neill led the way on the glass with eight total rebounds, and helped lead the Tigers to a 32-10 scoring advantage in the paint. She also came away with a team-high four steals.

The win sends the C2BL champs on to the district semifinals; they’ll head to Kelso on Thursday to take on Rainier, which beat out Forks in a close out at Montesano. A win would earn the Tigers a trip to the state tournament for the first time since 2018.

“I’m proud of the team to be able to come out tonight and compete against a good team,” Schutz said. “It’s hard, and now we’re in the semis.”