Despite suffering a loss in the recently completed Class 4A bi-district boys basketball tournament, the Union Titans are moving on to the regional round of the state playoffs.
Union advanced to this weekend’s action as the No. 1 seed and the Titans will meet No. 8 Enumclaw at 6 p.m. Saturday at Battle Ground High School.
“Our best defensive efforts have been in the playoffs,’’ said Union coach Blake Conley, when asked if he feels his team is peaking at the right time as it makes a run at a state championship. “We are focused and clicking at the right time. This team has such a high basketball IQ; we have figured out how to put together a complete game and carry that onto the next.’’
In its four bi-district tournament games, Union allowed its opponents to score more than 60 points just once, and that came in a 75-71 loss to Kentwood in the semifinals. In their three victories, the Titans allowed an average of just 53.7 points in double-digit wins over Olympia (72-48), Bellarmine (63-53) and Curtis (75-60).
“The bi-district tournament was great for us,’’ said Conley, whose team improved its season record to 19-4 heading into Saturday’s matchup with Enumclaw. “We played four different teams with different styles that will prepare us for the state tournament.
“Bellarmine was strong and physical and we matched their physicality well,’’ Conley said. “We did not play a complete game against Kentwood and when playing a team like that we learned that unless we focus on the details, you cannot win. But, I was extremely pleased with how we bounced back and played with great energy and focus against Curtis. You want to be playing your best at the end of the year and I feel like we are doing that right now.’’
Enumclaw heads into Saturday’s game with a 15-10 overall record, but Conley said his team is not taking the Hornets lightly.
“Enumclaw is a tough, hard-nosed and well-coached team,’’ Conley said. “They have size, can shoot it, and play very hard. We are going to have to continue to pass the ball and push the tempo while taking care of the ball. We need to match their physicality and control the boards. We are expecting their best and I know our team will give everything that we have.’’
Union has already clinched a spot in the next round of the state tournament, which begins March 1 at the Tacoma Dome. A Titans’ win on Saturday will give them a bye on the opening day of the state tourney.
The Titans have been led this season by 6-foot-6 senior Cameron Cranston, the Greater St. Helens League’s Class 4A boys Player of the Year. Juniors Zack Reznick and Tyler Combs were GSHL all-league first-team selections and Conley was the league’s Coach of the Year.
Here’s a look at the rest of the Final 16 round matchups for area teams:
- Woodland, a 12th seed, advanced to the elimination round of the Class 2A boys state tournament. The Beavers (15-6) will meet No. 13-seeded Foss at 4 p.m. Saturday at Battle Ground High School. Woodland needs a win Saturday to advance to the next level of the state tourney, which takes place March 1-4 at the Yakima SunDome. Woodland is led by senior center Bryce Mulder, the 2A GSHL Co-Player of the Year.
- La Center (15-4) will play in a seeding game of the 1A boys state tournament. The sixth-seeded Wildcats will meet third-seeded Zillah Saturday at 6 p.m. at Davis High School in Yakima. La Center senior Jake Wise was the Trico League Most Valuable Player this season and freshman Hunter Ecklund was an all-league first-team selection.
- King’s Way Christian (14-9) is the 10th seed in the 1A boys state tournament, which places them in an elimination game against 15th-seeded Vashon Island Saturday at 2 p.m. at Battle Ground High School. Seniors Skyler Freeman and Joe Mills were both all-league, first-team selections for King’s Way this season.
Camas (16-7), an 8th seed, will meet top-seeded Kentlake Saturday at 4 p.m. at Rogers High School in Puyallup in a seeding game in the 4A girls state tournament. The Papermakers have clinched a spot in the next round of the state tourney, which takes place March 1-4 at the Tacoma Dome. Camas is led by all-GSHL first-teamers Teague Schroeder, Courtney Clemmer and Haley Hanson. Papermakers coach Scott Preuninger was the 4A GSHL girls Coach of the Year.
- Despite their 20-4 season record and second-place finish at the 3A bi-district tournament, the Prairie girls, seeded 13th, will face an elimination game against 12th-seeded Seattle Prep Friday at 8 p.m. at Bellevue College. The Falcons will need a win Friday to advance to the final round of the state tourney March 1-4 at the Tacoma Dome.
- Washougal’s girls, seeded No. 6 in the 2A state tournament, will face White River (No. 3 seed) Saturday at 2 p.m. at Rogers High School in Puyallup. The Panthers (16-5) will advance to the final round of the state tournament, March 1-4 at the Yakima SunDome. Washougal is ledby 2A GSHL Player of the Year Beyonce Bea, a sophomore, and all-GSHL first-teamer Mason Oberg.
- La Center (22-0) is riding high after claiming the 1A girls district championship. The Wildcats, seeded No. 7, will meet second-seeded Lynden Christian Saturday at 2 p.m. at Mount Vernon High School. La Center has already clinched a spot in the final round of the 1A state tournament, March 1-4 at the Yakima SunDome. La Center is led by sophomore Taylor Stephens, the Trico League’s Most Valuable Player and Trico League first-team all-leaguers Taylor Mills, Molly Edwards and Bethany Whitten, all juniors.