Boys basketball: Union gets it done in the dome, heads to final four

Titans exorcise demons from 2019 appearance at state

TACOMA — This victory was a year in the making for the Union Titans.

As the No. 1 seed again, they know there are no guarantees in the Class 4A state boys basketball tournament.

They know that their record coming into the Tacoma Dome this week meant nothing. 

They had to perform.

Or else.

Well, the Titans put on a performance Thursday evening, taking down Olympia 69-56 in the quarterfinals.

Kaden Horn made five 3-pointers and scored 24 points, Tanner Toolson added 22 points, and Ariya Briscoe did a little bit of everything as the Titans pulled away after a close first half.

Kaden Horn, shown here earlier this season, made five 3-pointers and scored 24 points Thursday, helping Union to a 69-56 win over Olympia in the Class 4A boys basketball state tournament in the Tacoma Dome. Photo by Mike Schultz
Kaden Horn, shown here earlier this season, made five 3-pointers and scored 24 points Thursday, helping Union to a 69-56 win over Olympia in the Class 4A boys basketball state tournament in the Tacoma Dome. Photo by Mike Schultz

“Last year when we lost in the first game at the Tacoma Dome, it was really upsetting,” Briscoe said. “Every other night, in the group chat talking, we kept saying, ‘Next year, we have to get there, we have to work hard.’ 

“So every day at practice, everybody’s working hard and we had one goal that we’re all trying to reach together. That unity we have, it’s just great.”

That ultimate goal is two wins away from the Titans now. 

They will face Central Valley in a semifinal at 7:15 p.m. Friday in the dome. Central Valley held on, barely, to beat Skyview in a quarterfinal. More on that game below. (In a crazy coincidence, Union and Central Valley are playing in the 4A girls state semifinals, as well. That game is at 5:30 p.m.) 

The girls getting to the final four might be a surprise to some. 

This is no surprise for the boys. But again, they learned in 2019 that a top seed just means everyone’s out to get you. Union lost in the quarterfinals and then in the consolation bracket.

“We had that bitter taste in our mouth,” Toolson said. 

“Everything we worked for was for this moment,” he said, referring to the one big moment that is championship week in the dome. “We went 25-0, but right now we’re 1-0 in the dome, and that’s all that matters.”

The goal, of course, is to keep winning. They seem to have the recipe for that: Toolson — the Washington coaches association’s Mr. Basketball — doing his thing, some sharpshooting from Horn, plus a big night or two from others.

On Thursday, that came from Briscoe.

“He did everything that we needed him to, and he ran the show very well,” Union coach Blake Conley said. “He defended well, he got the rebounds, he set us up. He was so big for us. It’s not going to show up in the stat book, but he was one of our most valuable guys out there tonight.”

Briscoe buried a 3-pointer with 2:15 left in the third quarter to give Union a double-digit lead for the first time in the second half. Olympia never recovered.

Ariya Briscoe, shown here earlier this season, was instrumental in Union’s quarterfinal win over Olympia on Thursday. Photo by Mike Schultz
Ariya Briscoe, shown here earlier this season, was instrumental in Union’s quarterfinal win over Olympia on Thursday. Photo by Mike Schultz

“I threw it to Tanner. He threw it right back. Nobody was on me,” Briscoe said. “I was like, ‘Ok, this is my shot. I’ve just got to shoot.’ Shooter’s shoot, and I made it, and just get back on defense and keep playing.”

It was Horn lighting up the Olympia defense earlier in the game. He made five 3-pointers in the first half. Horn did not play for Union last year.

“It feels amazing. Not knowing how the rims are here, never playing in the dome, it was a great feeling starting off so hot,” Horn said.

“Without him, that would have been a different first half,” Conley said. “He was en fuego. He was very good tonight.”

The Titans needed it, too, because the Bears would not go away. Union led by 13 in the second quarter but the lead was cut to five.

“At halftime, we said we just had to keep bringing the energy no matter what,” Horn said.

It took a few minutes of the third quarter, then Union took off, on the way to a 26-0 record and a berth to the semifinals.

Class 4A boys

Central Valley 65, Skyview 64:

It could go down at Skyview as the best comeback that did not result in a victory.

Trailing by 18 midway through the third quarter, the Storm rallied to tie the game with less than three minutes to play in the fourth quarter. 

And then some.

They trailed again by four points in the final 20 seconds, got two free throws with 15 seconds to play, then got two steals for two more looks.

Officially, Central Valley won the game.  Unofficially, they held on for basketball life.

Central Valley will play in the semifinals against Union.

Skyview was this close to making it a 4A Greater St. Helens League matchup in the final four.

Kyle Gruhler’s two free throws with 15 seconds left gave him 31 points and brought Skyview to within two at 65-63. 

Sean Boss got a steal and was fouled. He made one free throw. 

Then Central Valley turned it over again. This time, Jace Chatman knocked the ball away into the hands of teammate Squeeky Johnson. Skyview called timeout with 3.7 seconds left, down by one.

Central Valley, though, defended Skyview’s final play, and a tough shot fell short. 

Skyview will take on Olympia at 12:15 p.m. Friday in a consolation semifinal.

Gruhler scored 20 first-half points, keeping the Storm within three points at the break.

Chatman’s 3-pointer early in the second half made it a two-point game.

Then Central Valley went on a 16-0 run to go up 54-36.

Jayce Simmons led Central Valley with 17 points. Noah Sanders made four 3-pointers and scored 16 points. Gavin Gilstrap had 16 points, as well.

The Storm had no quit in them, though. They scored the next 10 points.

Chatman (17 points) would make back-to-back 3-pointers in the fourth quarter to close the gap even more. Later, Cody McKinnon (10 points) scored back-to-back inside shots to tie the game at 61.

Central Valley regained the lead with 2:25 to play. Skyview suffered through a series of turnovers, and CV would capitalize to go up by four, setting up the wild finish.  

Class 1A boys

Seattle Academy 64, King’s Way Christian 51:

King’s Way Christian ran into the No. 1-seeded team in the tournament and the result was a 64-51 loss in the quarterfinals. The Knights will now meet River View in a loser out game at 9 a.m. Friday at the Yakima Valley SunDome. If King’s Way wins Friday, the Knights will play for fourth or sixth place on Saturday.

King’s Way Christian was down by just six points (42-36) heading into the fourth quarter against Seattle Academy, which improved to 24-1 on the season with the victory. The Knights (20-7) who led by as many as three points in the first quarter, were led in scoring by Brady Metz, who had 19 points. Metz made four of his nine shots from the field, including three of seven 3-pointers, and added a perfect 8-for-8 effort at the free throw line. 

Bryson Metz added 15 points and five rebounds for King’s Way Christian. Lewis Welsh chipped in eight points for the Knights. 


About The Author

Paul Valencia joins 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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