Titans back in the hunt for league title after handing Storm its first loss of the season
CAMAS — The Union Titans are proven.
They know how to win league championships. They know how to defend them.
Which is why it should be no surprise to anyone that the Titans are back in position to win another title.
Oh no, it is not a done deal. Still three games to play in the Class 4A Greater St. Helens League. It is far from a done deal.
But the Titans would have been all-but-done had they lost Tuesday night.
These are the Union Titans, though, winners of six consecutive league titles. These are the Titans, not wanting to give up that streak without a fight.
To wage that battle, they had to end another significant streak. Skyview’s 17-game win streak is now over.
Tyler Combs and Zach Reznick did what is expected of senior leaders, Jason Franklin Jr. hit so many big shots in the second half, and Quinn Lamey led a trio of defenders who slowed down one of the best players in the region, leading Union to a 72-69 victory over Skyview.
Franklin’s 3-pointer with 36 seconds left in the game gave Union a 70-67 lead. He scored all 14 of his points in the second half, including seven in the third quarter when the Titans started their comeback from a 12-point deficit.
“It feels good to be the game-winner in a game this big,” Franklin said.
He added, though, that it could have been any of his teammates. On this night, he was the one who had the best looks in the second half.
“In close games you go out there and if you have the open shot, you take it and just knock it down,” he said.
“He’s playing with so much confidence right now,” Union coach Blake Conley said. “He had to wait for his time. His time finally came this year. He’s really elevated his game. It’s really great to see a program guy … hitting some huge shots down the stretch.”
The Storm fell to 17-1 overall, 5-1 in the 4A GSHL, with games against Battle Ground and Heritage left on the schedule. Union is 14-4 and 4-1 in league play and has matchups with Camas, Battle Ground, and Heritage.
With the two teams tied in the loss column, that sets up quite the dramatics for the final week and a half.
Technically, even if Union had lost Tuesday, the Titans could have still tied for a league title by winning out and Skyview losing out.
But no, that was not going to happen. This was a must-win for the Titans for a shot at the league title.
“Obviously we are very happy with this win tonight,” Lamey said. “It’s all for not if we don’t take care of business the rest of the season.”
“Celebrate tonight,” Franklin said. “Starting tomorrow, it’s back to business, getting ready for Friday.”
Before Franklin could hit the game-winner, the Titans had to slow down the Storm. Lamey and his teammates accomplished that mission.
Skyview’s Alex Schumacher made 8 of 9 shots and scored 19 points in the first half. He was held to one field goal in second half and finished with 23 points.
“You saw how good he is. He was hitting everything,” Lamey said of Schumacher. “We switched up our defense.”
Union went to its “Hawk” strategy.
“I was just chasing him around, trying to deny him the ball. He was hurting us so much when he had the ball in his hands,” Lamey said.
Conley said he was most impressed with Lamey’s demeanor on the court, especially after that first half. Lamey, the coach said, did not get frustrated when Schumacher was on fire. It was just a great offensive performance topping a solid defense.
The defense won that battle in the second half.
The plan was for the Titans to stick with Schumacher no matter where Schumacher was on the court. Deny. Deny. Deny.
Of course, that can get exhausting.
“You can’t deny forever,” Lamey said. “Our next guys came in and did a great job denying him, as well.”
That would be Dustin Nettles and Coby Weatherspoon.
All of that defense allowed for the Titans to make up the deficit on offense. Six Titans combined to score 28 third-quarter points, with Lamey connecting on a 3-pointer to give Union a 58-57 lead going into the fourth.
That was the first of five lead changes in the second half. Combs made two free throws with 2:38 left for the final lead change, giving Union a 66-65 advantage.
With just under a minute, the game was tied again when Skyview’s Jovon Sewell made two free throws.
Franklin was true on his third 3-pointer of the game with 36 seconds remaining. Skyview got two free throws from Schumacher, and Ethan Smith made two for the Titans down the stretch. Skyview’s last two attempts to tie the game were not on target.
The ending was only a bit more exciting than the first quarter when there were seven lead changes. By halftime, the Storm were shooting at a 70-percent clip and had a seven-point lead.
The Titans, though, had the hot shooting touch in the second half. To go with that defensive effort, too.
Add it all up, and the Storm and Titans each have one league loss and a championship is still there for the taking.
What if? … If both teams win out, there will be a seeding game. The No. 1 seed from the 4A GSHL gets a home playoff game to open the bi-district tournament.
Numbers … Combs finished with 18 points to lead four Titans in double figures. Reznick had 15 points. Both guards combined to shoot 13 of 23 from the floor. … Franklin was 3 for 6 from 3-point range. Smith added 11 points. … Jovon Sewell had 13 points for Skyview. Samaad Hector added 10 points. Cole Grossman finished with 12 points but also put on a passing display. A post who can pass is quite a weapon. At one point in the third quarter, he had three consecutive assists.