Tigers appreciate the opportunity to play in prestigious event
BATTLE GROUND — Merry Christmas to the Battle Ground Tigers.
Their gift: They get to play some of the best programs in the Northwest, maybe one of the top teams in the nation.
Yes, it will be a challenging schedule, but this really is a present, if you will, for the program.
Battle Ground has one of the biggest basketball recruits Southwest Washington has seen in years with Kaden Perry, and the hype surrounding him just keeps intensifying.
That led to the Tigers being invited to the prestigious Les Schwab Tires Invitational, to be played Dec. 26 through Dec. 30 at Liberty High School in Hillsboro, Ore. The tournament features 13 teams from the Northwest, plus Bishop Gorman of Las Vegas, Mater Dei of California, and Norcross from Atlanta.
This is no secret: Perry is the reason Battle Ground was invited to this event. But it remains a team reward.
“They’re going to see a tight-knit group of guys,” Perry said, referring to Northwest basketball fans who might not know a lot about the Tigers. “We all know we are capable of doing something on the court. No one is selfish. We all are willing to sacrifice to do what it takes to win a basketball game.”
Perry, at 6-9, is a junior, but already has announced his intention to sign with Gonzaga next year. In fact, he announced back in June. Since then, he has just been preparing to lead the Tigers while trying to improve on the things Gonzaga has asked him to work on before he gets to Spokane.
“Gonzaga had always been my dream,” Perry said. “Now I want to make sure I can exceed expectations once I get there.”
He will also get to showcase his talents in high school gyms for the rest of this season and next school year, too.
Next up on the schedule: Four games at the Les Schwab Invitational.
“When the opportunity presented itself, I couldn’t say no,” Battle Ground coach Manny Melo said. “It’s a huge tournament. Lots of eyes to see us. It’s a neat opportunity for the kids to play in it. We’re super excited.”
The coach said tournament fans should expect a Battle Ground team that has been getting to know each other this year after the program graduated six seniors after last season.
“We’re working really hard on defense,” Melo said. “We pride ourselves on holding teams to as little points as possible. We take pride in that.”
In fact, through the first five games of the season, Battle Ground was second in the state in points allowed.
Of course, the schedule is going to be tougher. Besides the Les Schwab Invitational, the 4A Greater St. Helens League is sure to be a challenge. Union is among the top teams in the state in all polls. Skyview has a ton of talent, too.
“Everybody’s going to get their money’s worth, playing for this program,” Melo said of the 2019-20 schedule.
As for Perry, he said the Tigers want to make a return trip to the Tacoma Dome. Battle Ground made it to the first day at the dome last season, the final 12.
“We are a really strong team this year, and I want everyone to see that,” Perry said, adding that he appreciates that the Tigers have received some early season recognition. “It’s not just all talk. We’re a good team.”
Thursday’s game: Battle Ground takes on Jefferson of Portland at 10:30 a.m. Thursday in the opening round of the Les Schwab Tires Invitational.
Ticket prices vary, with one-day tickets available as well as tournament passes. For brackets, teams, and ticket information: http://lesschwabinvitational.com/info.htm