Playoff basketball: Columbia River boys get wild win to cap busy Saturday

Columbia River boys, La Center girls highlight a busy night of Saturday playoff action in Clark County

The Columbia River Chieftains rallied to win a thriller in the opener of the Class 2A District 4 boys basketball tournament.

Jacob Hjort rises up to take the game-winning 3-pointer in the closing seconds of Saturday’s win over Black Hills. Photo by Mike Schultz
Jacob Hjort rises up to take the game-winning 3-pointer in the closing seconds of Saturday’s win over Black Hills. Photo by Mike Schultz

The La Center girls basketball team had no trouble in its first postseason game of the season.

Oh, and Hudson’s Bay got two wins – one from the girls team, the other from the boys squad – to save their seasons.

Taylor Stephens scored 21 points to lead La Center in its first playoff game of the season. Photo by Mike Schultz
Taylor Stephens scored 21 points to lead La Center in its first playoff game of the season. Photo by Mike Schultz

Those were just the playoff games played in Clark County on Saturday.

Up north, the Camas girls joined the Prairie girls and Union boys in clinching a spot in the state round of 16.

Evans Rankings used its twitter feed to opine that Saturday was the best day of the year for high school basketball in the state. The tweet noted there were 134 playoff games on the schedule, with a total of 35 boys and girls teams clinching state berths.

None of the winners from the four games in Clark County qualified for state. Two went a long way toward that goal, with Columbia River boys and La Center girls now in position to make it if they win their next games. Two others — the Bay girls and Bay boys — stayed alive with victories in elimination games.

2A boys:

Columbia River 41, Black Hills 40:

Jacob Hjort was having one of the worst shooting nights of his career.

No one will care about that, though. Because he made the only shot that mattered.

The senior promised a win in his final game at J Hoover Gymnasium at Columbia River High School. For his team. And for the students.

So even after a dreadful shooting performance, he found himself with the ball, his team down by two points, with the clock winding down.

“I’m taking the last shot,” he recalled thinking.

“I’ve had two game-winners in my high school career. Might as well make it three. I had the confidence I was going to do it. I was not going to go out, my last game at J Hoover, with a loss.”

He said he also thought about the students cheering on his team, knowing that because it is the playoffs, they all had to pay to get in the game. Hjort owed it to them to come through in the clutch.

Yes, he buried the shot with 5.9 seconds left in the game, capping a wild rally in the final 40 seconds.
Black Hills had a four-point lead with less than a minute to play and the ball after a defensive rebound. But Jack Armstrong got a steal, and he found Caden Dezort for a 3-pointer to make it 39-38.

Black Hills made one free throw on the other end to make it 40-38.

Then Hjort struck.

“My heart is still beating really hard,’ Hjort said, some 10 minutes after the game.

“I don’t think too many people were optimistic,” he said, referring to the time just before Armstrong’s steal. After all, the Chieftains had just missed another shot and Black Hills got the rebound, up four.

“Our team kept to it,” Hjort said. “I’m super proud. Better to have a team that plays together than five superstars.”

Columbia River will take on W.F. West in the district semifinals 7:45 p.m. Tuesday at Mark Morris High School. The winner of that game will make it to round of 16 at state.

In other games, Ridgefield and Washougal both lost in the opening round. Both are in the consolation bracket, where it will take three consecutive wins to make it to state.

1A Girls:

La Center 61, Montesano 39

“It’s go-time now,” said Molly Edwards. “We’ve been training for this all season. We’re getting excited for it. Everybody’s pumped up.”

Yes, it is the postseason. For the Wildcats, it could not have come soon enough.

La Center has crushed its league opponents all season. Now it is time to focus on bigger challenges ahead.

The Wildcats got started with a win over Montesano, advancing to the district championship game. La Center will take on Elma on Wednesday at Rochester High school, with the winner qualifying for state.

Four Wildcats scored in double figures, led by Taylor Stephens’ 21 points. Stephens made five 3-pointers. Edwards hit three from long range.

Stephens said the postseason is La Center’s “comeback” season. The Wildcats want to return to state but also make a point. A year ago, the team lost in the regional seeding game, then won its first game in Yakima before losing two more.

The Wildcats expect more of themselves this season.

“From here on out, play the game, play it right, and play together,” Stephens said. “When we play together at our highest level, we’re tough to stop.”
Stephens and Edwards were recently voted co-MVPs of the Trico League.

“I worked really hard. I put in a lot of time in the gym,” Edwards said. “It was cool to get some recognition for it.”

Stephens was not surprised that Edwards was noticed by the other coaches in the Trico League. Edwards was hurt early in the season but was 100 percent by league play.

“League was her shining moment,” Stephens said. “She got to be the superstar. She deserved it. She worked her butt off.”

4A Girls:

The Camas Papermakers are heading to the state round of 16 for the second consecutive season.
It was an impressive Saturday for the Papermakers, who defeated Rogers of Puyallup 56-46 to advance to the semifinals of the bi-district tournament.

Courtney Clemmer returned to action after missing most of the first-round game with a back injury.

Camas survived an overtime game in that bi-district opener, then returned to the court strong enough for a 10-point victory Saturday in Tacoma to get back to state.

Meanwhile, Union missed out on a chance to qualify for state. The Titans lost to Bellarmine and fell into the consolation bracket. Union will play again Tuesday.

Skyview’s season came to an end with a loss in the consolation bracket.

3A Boys:

The Prairie Falcons missed out on a chance to qualify for state Saturday, falling to Timberline in the bi-district quarterfinals. Prairie dropped into the consolation bracket and will now have to win its next two games to make it.

Hudson’s Bay topped Evergreen 55-50, eliminating the Plainsmen and staying alive in the consolation bracket.

3A Girls:

Hudson’s Bay topped Evergreen by one point in an elimination game Saturday. The rest of the teams played Friday. Prairie clinched a berth to state by reaching the bi-district semifinals.

Bay will return to action on Monday in the consolation bracket. Prairie will play again Wednesday.

Here are the brackets for the tourneys that did not play Saturday but will resume this week:

4A Boys:

2A Girls:

1A Boys:

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