Boys Basketball: Fort Vancouver unafraid of competition

Trappers hoping losses to top programs such as Union, Skyview, and Mark Morris will eventually help them

VANCOUVER — It was a difficult end to the first quarter for the Fort Vancouver boys basketball team Tuesday night.

Yet the Trappers would momentarily regroup against the top program in the region.

In the second half, that top program — Union — got the best of the Trappers, extending the lead to 24 points in the fourth quarter.

Once again, the Trappers showed some fight, scoring the next 10 points and just missing a 3-pointer that would have made it a 13-0 run with three minutes left in the game.

There would be no sports miracle of a comeback this night. Union ended up with a 69-53 victory. But there are victories within losses for some teams. And if anything, Tuesday night was another piece of evidence that Fort Vancouver is unafraid.

Fort Vancouver guard Jameel Morton (4) rises above Union’s Tyler Combs (12) during the Trappers’ 69-53 loss to the Titans Tuesday at Fort Vancouver High School. Photo by Mike Schultz
Fort Vancouver guard Jameel Morton (4) rises above Union’s Tyler Combs (12) during the Trappers’ 69-53 loss to the Titans Tuesday at Fort Vancouver High School. Photo by Mike Schultz

The Trappers fell to 4-3, but those three losses have come against quality opponents:

  • Mark Morris, a program that has gone to the state tournament in 17 of the past 18 seasons.
  • Skyview, a team that is 7-0 and currently ranked No. 1 in the Ratings Percentage Index among all Class 4A teams in Washington.
  • Union, the team that finished second in the 4A state tournament a year ago and has finished in the top four in each of the past three seasons.

“It’s going to help us when we play in the playoffs,” said James Husband Jr., who scored 21 points in Tuesday’s loss. “It’s going to help us get better individually and as a team.”

Yes, the Trappers expect to be a playoff team. They expect to compete for a 3A Greater St. Helens League title. They expect.

“The goal is to go to the state tournament,” Jameel Morton added. “We have to adjust to each team to play the best that we can. We didn’t adjust as well as we should have tonight. That’s something we have to learn, for the future.”

Fort Vancouver guard Johnny Green (2) drives past a Union defender for a shot attempt during Tuesday’s game at Fort Vancouver High School. Photo by Mike Schultz
Fort Vancouver guard Johnny Green (2) drives past a Union defender for a shot attempt during Tuesday’s game at Fort Vancouver High School. Photo by Mike Schultz

That is why the Trappers schedule these opponents. You won’t see Fort football taking on Skyview or Union any time soon. But this is the expectation of Fort basketball.

“We’re never going to get better unless we play teams that are better than us,” Fort Vancouver coach James Ensley said. “If you want to rate yourself as one of the elite in the area, you have to play the elite in the area.”

No one is suggesting Fort basketball has arrived just yet. But a program has to start believing before it can start achieving.

Prairie still looks like the team to beat in the 3A Greater St. Helens League. Kelso should be tough, too. The Trappers are just saying they should not be overlooked.

There was nothing too surprising in Tuesday’s game. The Trappers hung around the Titans for a half, while Union’s depth and experience got the best of Fort in the second half. Four Titans scored in double figures, led by Ethan Smith, who made five 3-pointers and finished with 17 points.

Still, there were two situations that stood out for the Trappers.

Fort Vancouver trailed by two late in the first quarter when Union went on an 8-0 run, fueled by three consecutive Fort turnovers. Union converted on all three of those turnovers.

Just like that, it was a 10-point game. It was a vulnerable time for the Trappers. It could have turned into a blowout right then. Instead, the Trappers bounced back, cut the deficit to five points in the first two minutes of the second quarter and ended up outscoring the Titans in the period.

Union guard Tyler Combs (12) is one of the reasons the Titans have their eyes set on a return trip to the Class 4A state basketball tournament this season. Combs scored nine of his 14 points in the second half Tuesday as Union pulled away from Fort Vancouver for a 69-53 victory. Photo by Mike Schultz
Union guard Tyler Combs (12) is one of the reasons the Titans have their eyes set on a return trip to the Class 4A state basketball tournament this season. Combs scored nine of his 14 points in the second half Tuesday as Union pulled away from Fort Vancouver for a 69-53 victory. Photo by Mike Schultz

“We were yelling at each other, telling our teammates that we had to step it up,” Husband said.

The game would get away from the Trappers in the second half. Union took control in the third quarter, then scored the first eight points of the fourth quarter to go up by 24.

That is when Johnny Green, Husband, and Dakota Jones combined for a 10-0 Trappers run, with one ball going in-and-out on a 3-point attempt that would have made for a baker’s dozen.

“I am proud of that part,” Husband said. “We didn’t want to get blown out bad. We wanted to cut that lead down.”

“We always play with heart,” Morton said. “We never give up. No matter what the score is, we’re going to play our hardest.”

Ensley appreciated the effort, too. His players appreciate that their coach believes in them enough to play Union and Skyview.

“We want to play teams that are better than us to see what we can learn,” Morton said.

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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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