Boys basketball: Union’s defense shines in quarterfinal win


Titans will take on Curtis in a final four game at 9 p.m. Friday

TACOMA — They never trailed, but it sure got close.

No worries, though. Not with this group.

The Union Titans never lost their poise.

Now, the Titans are headed to the Class 4A boys basketball state semifinals after a dominating fourth-quarter performance against Kamiakin in the Tacoma Dome on Thursday night. The Titans pulled away with a 57-41 victory.

“It’s the greatest feeling ever. This is my first time at the dome. I’m just excited to see what comes,” said Yanni Fassillis, who led the Titans with 21 points on offense and had a stellar night on defense.

Yanni Fassillis hits this fadeaway, two of his 21 points for the Union Titans on Thursday. Union defeated Kamiakin in the state quarterfinals. Photo by Heather Tianen
Yanni Fassillis hits this fadeaway, two of his 21 points for the Union Titans on Thursday. Union defeated Kamiakin in the state quarterfinals. Photo by Heather Tianen

“It’s a great feeling. I love this team,” added Bryson Metz, who took over the game when it got close. “I think we’ve got a good shot. Just keep doing what we’re doing.”

Union, the No. 3 seed in this tournament, will face No. 2 Curtis at 9 p.m. Friday night. The winner of that game will play for a state championship.

“There were times in January I didn’t even know if we were going to have a tournament,” Union coach Blake Conley said, recalling the peak days of Omicron when games were being postponed. “To see these kids so excited … it was awesome. That’s really why you do it as a coach, to see the joy and the happiness.”

He told the Titans to enjoy Thursday’s victory for the night. On Friday morning, the team will begin its focus on the semifinals.

They should celebrate, too, because the Titans put on a clinic on defending a much taller team. Tyler Bilodeau, at 6-8, did get 15 points and 10 rebounds for the Braves, but he was held to 33-percent shooting.

The Union guards made it tough on the Braves as they tried to get the ball to Bilodeau. And when they did get him the ball, Fassillis made life difficult for him. Fassillis had three of Union’s 11 steals, plus he held his ground against Bilodeau.

“With a guy that big and that talented, I thought we did a great job game-planning, knowing what to give and what not to give him to give us the best chance to get the win,” Fassillis said.

Union put a halt to a Kamiakin rally late in the third quarter, then unleashed chaos on the Braves in the fourth quarter when The Titans forced six turnovers on Kamiakin’s first seven possessions.

“I knew we were doing a great job. We were getting after it, forcing turnovers, but I didn’t know we had that many,” Fassillis said.

More than half the quarter passed before Kamiakin scored its first basket. By then, the Titans were up by 13 and feeling confident about making it to the final four.

The momentum shifted all the way to Union toward the end of the third quarter.

Kamiakin, which trailed by 10 in the first half, got to within a point midway through the period. It was a two-point game going into the final minute when Metz made sure the ball was in his hands.

No, he didn’t score. He just created scoring opportunities for his teammates.

Bryson Metz seems to defy gravity in the Tacoma Dome. The Union guard had 16 points, six rebounds, three assists, and no turnovers in the Titans’ state quarterfinal win. Photo by Heather Tianen
Bryson Metz seems to defy gravity in the Tacoma Dome. The Union guard had 16 points, six rebounds, three assists, and no turnovers in the Titans’ state quarterfinal win. Photo by Heather Tianen

First, he found a cutting Josiah Baldassare for a contested lay-up. The next Union possession, it was Metz again creating magic, finding Fassillis for a three-point play just before the third-quarter horn.

“Our offense was very successful tonight. We made our reads, and it showed,” said Metz, who finished with 16 points, six rebounds, three assists, and no turnovers.

“The kid is the definition of a point guard and a warrior,” Conley said.

Union took a seven-point lead into the fourth quarter.

“We had a lot of energy. We knew we had to put them away,” Fassillis said.

Metz and the Titans were not satisfied after three quarters, though.

“We don’t ever pay attention to the score. We’re aware, but it’s never like ‘Oh, we’re going to let off the gas.’ It’s always, ‘Lets have a better quarter than we had the last quarter.’ We just have to keep pushing,” Metz said. “That’s the mindset.”

The Union Titans celebrate Thursday’s night’s quarterfinal win. The Titans will take on Curtis on Friday in the state semifinals. Photo by Heather Tianen
The Union Titans celebrate Thursday’s night’s quarterfinal win. The Titans will take on Curtis on Friday in the state semifinals. Photo by Heather Tianen

And that’s what happened as Union completed a 13-4 fourth quarter for an 18-4 run to end the game. 

Evan Eschels added 12 points and grabbed a team-high eight rebounds for the Titans. Conley said he was thrilled that his team grabbed more boards than the Braves.

“I could tell we were pretty dialed in,” Conley said.

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