HS basketball: Union finds another way to keep on winning

Titans outscored Battle Ground by 20 in final period

BATTLE GROUND — They were in trouble early in the game.

They made a move in the third quarter.

Then they dominated the fourth quarter for a win.

Sounds a lot like the Union football team. Only this was the Union boys basketball team Wednesday night at Battle Ground High School.

Another thing the two programs have in common? Undefeated.

Ethan Smith, a senior leader for the Union Titans, said he and his teammates always have faith in each other, even when trailing. Union rallied from a 16-point deficit Wednesday to win by 16 points over Battle Ground. Photo by Mike Schultz
Ethan Smith, a senior leader for the Union Titans, said he and his teammates always have faith in each other, even when trailing. Union rallied from a 16-point deficit Wednesday to win by 16 points over Battle Ground. Photo by Mike Schultz

OK, OK, the football team will always remain unbeaten, winning the state championship earlier this month.

The basketball season, when including potential playoff games, is roughly 33 percent complete. Still, the Union Titans are perfect so far, and they are atop the Class 4A RPI standings. They improved to 9-0 with a 57-41 victory over the Tigers.

That score is misleading. It might look like another easy victory for Union, but it was not. The Titans just made it look that way, outscoring Battle Ground 22-2 in the final quarter. The Titans went from a 16-point first-half deficit to a 16-point win.

“We knew that we weren’t going to play like that the whole game,” Tanner Toolson said, referring to the first-half struggle. “We just had to fight, fight, figh. We’re all fighters. We’re never giving up. If we play Titans basketball, we can always come back from a deficits.”

Brad Lackey scored 15 points to lead a balanced attack for the Titans, who moved to 2-0 in the 4A Greater St. Helens League.

Union’s Brad Lackey scored 15 points to pace the Titans. Union outscored Battle Ground 22-2 in the fourth quarter for a 57-41 victory. Photo by Mike Schultz
Union’s Brad Lackey scored 15 points to pace the Titans. Union outscored Battle Ground 22-2 in the fourth quarter for a 57-41 victory. Photo by Mike Schultz

Toolson’s third-quarter play was instrumental in starting the comeback. He scored all of his seven points in the period, plus he had a steal and an assist to account for two more points. He helped Union pull within four going into the fourth quarter.

Then Union scored the next 18 points.

“Wow,” Toolson said. “We just took advantage of every opportunity we had. We played liked our lives were on the line.”

Ethan Smith scored 12 points. His three-point play with 5:55 left in the game gave Union the lead for good.

“We were flustered,” Smith acknowledged, referring to the start of the game. “We were letting them do whatever they wanted to do. But we were only down by 11 at halftime. We are all relentless. We never give up.”
Smith said there is a confidence associated with playing Union basketball, from being part of a program that has gone to state the past four seasons.

“Whether we are up or we are down, we are going to compete,” Smith said. “That’s what the coaches have taught us. We’re never out of a game so don’t give up.”

That is a winning philosophy that has served Union well in the past and in the present. The Titans are No. 1 in the RPI. Smith and Toolson both said the ranking has no meaning right now, though. The Titans just want to focus on competing each night.

By the end of the regular season, after the bi-district tournament, if the Titans are still playing, advancing to state again, then they will worry about the RPI.

Union’s Tanner Toolson (21) skies high to defend against Battle Grounds’ Vincent McCormic during Wednesday’s game. Toolson had a huge third quarter, igniting the comeback in Union’s 57-41 win. Photo by Mike Schultz
Union’s Tanner Toolson (21) skies high to defend against Battle Grounds’ Vincent McCormic during Wednesday’s game. Toolson had a huge third quarter, igniting the comeback in Union’s 57-41 win. Photo by Mike Schultz

On the other side of the scoreboard Wednesday, the Battle Ground Tigers have to feel good about their effort. KeAndre Hunter-Holliday ended up leading the Tigers with 15 points.

Battle Ground’s offense would not get a field goal in the fourth quarter, though, allowing for Union to pull away for the win. The Tigers fell to 6-3 overall, 0-1 in league play.

Kaden Perry, one of the top talents in the state, played an inspired first half despite an injury with eight points and three blocked shots. His play on both ends of the court helped Battle Ground take a 28-12 lead. Unfortunately for the Tigers, the injury forced Perry to the sideline for the entire second half.

The Titans know they were in a battle.

“They played great,” Smith said of the Tigers. “Their defense was locked down. They were picking us apart on offense and defense.”

So far, though, this has been Union’s school year. In football and now in basketball, the Titans know how to rally to victory.

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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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