2A/1A Boys Basketball notes: Columbia River red hot going into January

Notes from the Class 2A and 1A boys basketball programs in Clark County.

Tidbits on all Clark County small schools

2A Greater St. Helens League

Columbia River is off to a hot start, with a win over Idaho’s top-ranked team and its only losses coming in close contests to two of Washington’s top Class 4A squads. Mark Morris is always a challenge in the 2A Greater St. Helens League (GSHL), as well.

Because of the 12-game league schedule, the 2A GSHL got a start before the holiday break. River is 2-0, as is Washougal. Hockinson and Mark Morris are each at 1-0.

Here are some notes on Clark County’s teams in the 2A GSHL as we head into January and the push for postseason basketball:

Columbia River (8-2, 2-0 2A GSHL)

The Chieftains go into January as the No. 4 team in the WIAA Class 2A RPI.

Looking at the schedule and results, it is easy to see why.

River went to Idaho for a holiday tournament and won all three games for the title, including a victory over that state’s top-ranked team. That came after the Chieftains opened 2A GSHL play with a couple of wins.

The two losses have come against Skyview and Camas, two 4A teams that are a combined 22-2.

Word for the day: Impressive.

“When you’re a good team, you want to play good teams,” Columbia River coach David Long said.

He has seen a lot of positives with his team in the first 10 games.

“The scoring is spread out like we hoped. We’re better defenders than I thought we were going to be. And they’re unselfish. They share the ball,” Long said.

A year ago, he added, the team relied too much on just two players doing most of the scoring. Now, while Jacob Hjort gets most of the attention from opponents, three juniors — Caden Dezort, Evan Dirksen, and Jack Armstrong — have been scoring in bunches. Defenses are locked in on Hjort but the Chieftains are still winning.

Senior Nasseen Gutierrez has been more than solid at the post position and sophomore point guard Nate Snook has stepped up his play.

Long said this is a state-tournament quality team. Of course, in February it will be up to the Chieftains to prove that. For now, it is all about focusing on the rest of 2A GSHL play.

Hockinson (3-6, 1-0)

The Hawks have a losing overall record but there are signs of improvement. Because of a holiday tournament, they ended up playing 4A Battle Ground twice this season. In the first outing, it was all Battle Ground. In the second outing, it was a two-point decision.

As a first-year coach I was eager to implement what I considered ‘my’ system. However, I have discovered that there has to be a blend of a coach’s vision of how a team should play coupled with what the team’s skill set is. I tried to do too much too soon,” Hockinson coach Jonathan Warner acknowledged. “But I would say the main thing that has been learned has been learned by both my players and myself: we can compete with the teams in Clark County.”

The Hawks won their first 2A GSHL game this season, matching their total of league wins from a year ago.

“We have improved, and I expect will continue to improve, each week,’’ Warner said. “We are not the same team we were at the beginning of the season, and will not be the same team in 2018 that we were in 2017. Culture and chemistry really do have an impact, and I think the improvements we have made in those two areas are going to result in an improvement in our record,” Warner said.

Team leaders include: Peyton Brammer at 20 points per game; Sawyer Racanelli with 10 rebounds per game; Micah Paulsen with 13 points, 3 assists, and 2 steals per game, and Mason Panfiglio with 11 points and 8 boards per game.

Ridgefield (4-5, 0-2)

“The Spudders are still looking to find our stride offensively,” coach Jason Buffum said. “We have been pretty dialed in defensively (holding opponents to 47 points per game). We have a lot of new faces playing new roles. We have some players still looking to get it going, and we are hoping 2018 sparks the offense.”

Matt Gama is the team’s leading scorer at 9.8 points per game. Kade Ramey is at 8.8 points and 4.8 rebounds a game. Tim Radosevich and Gama share the assists lead on the squad.

Washougal (5-5, 2-0)

“Every bit of court experience has been valuable. While the team has seven seniors, only Carson Adams had seen significant minutes so there has been a sharp learning curve in getting used to the game speed/strength,” Washougal coach A.J. LaBree said. “Every single league game is going to be a dogfight. I don’t foresee many blowouts.

“The Washougal kids play hard, they play for each other, and they want to win.”

Moses McEwen is the team’s leading scorer at 16 points per game. Adams and Jakob Davis are grabbing six rebounds per outing. Alex Orr and Kade Coons share the assist honors.

Woodland (5-5, 0-2)

“We are a young team that is having its ups and downs,” Woodland coach Andrew Johnson said. “At times, I have seen us make some great plays but also make some bad ones. Being a young team we have to really focus on the little aspects of the game and improve every day.

“Being a young team, they bring a great energy to every practice and game. This is a fun team to coach and can’t wait to see them grow and improve.”

Palmer Dinehart leads the Beavers in scoring at 17.4 points and 10.8 rebounds per game. Alex Bishop and Tyler Flanagan are averaging double figures in points, as well. Flanagan also is close to eight assists a game.


Trico League:

It can be difficult to use non-league results to gauge how a season will progress in the Trico League. The small schools often schedule tough opponents, so the overall records suffer.

Here are some notes on Clark County’s Trico League teams:

King’s Way Christian (4-6)

King’s Way Christian coach Daven Harmeling was short and sweet when describing what he learned of his team in the non-league schedule.

“The importance of communication and urgency,” he said.

The Knights do have a win over 2A Woodland and close losses to 2A Washougal and 3A Evergreen and Hudson’s Bay.

La Center (3-7)

Don’t be fooled by La Center’s record. This is a team that likely will have a big say in February basketball. The Wildcats just endured a tough non-league schedule.

La Center beat a one-loss team, and hung tough against Lynden Christian.

“Heading into league … we are battle tested,” coach Jeremy Ecklund said.

“I feel we have a lot of talent on this team with guys that can really shoot and fill up the stat sheet,” he added. “We are definitely scoring more this season but giving up more points as well as we are playing at a little higher speed.”

Some stat leaders: Hunter Ecklund is at 20 points, 6 assists, and 5 rebounds per game. Avery Seter is at 16 points, 4 assists; and Matt Bryant is at 13 points and six boards.

Seton Catholic (1-6)

“We didn’t really know what we had. Each game, we learned a little something about our team,” coach Phil Kent said. “We learned what we are not and where are strengths are. Players are starting to accept their roles. Each player has got to play their role that suits their strengths.”

The Cougars intentionally went with a tough non-league schedule.

“We felt last year we weren’t prepared for league. The stronger teams out-toughed us,” Kent said.

Isaiah Parker, Matt Kent, and Henry Denski are sharing much of the scoring load for the Cougars.

Although it was a loss, Seton Catholic played strong in a three-point loss to Archbishop Murphy. Kent said that is a performance the Cougars can build off of as they head into league play.

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About The Author

Paul Valencia joins ClarkCountyToday.com after more than two decades of newspaper experience. He became the face of high school sports coverage in Clark County during his 17 years at The Columbian. Before moving to Vancouver, Paul worked at Oregon daily newspapers in Pendleton, Roseburg, and Salem. A graduate of David Douglas High School in Portland, Paul enlisted in the U.S. Army, serving three years as a soldier/journalist. He and his wife Jenny recently celebrated their 20th anniversary. They have a son who has a passion for karate and Minecraft. Paul’s hobbies include: Watching the Raiders play football, reading about the Raiders playing football, and waiting to watch and read about the Raiders playing football.

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