Union boys take different route but reach state basketball tourney

Yanni Fassilis was a dunking machine Friday night, helping the Union Titans beat Emerald Ridge to advance to the state boys basketball tournament. Photo courtesy Heather Tianen
Yanni Fassilis was a dunking machine Friday night, helping the Union Titans beat Emerald Ridge to advance to the state boys basketball tournament. Photo courtesy Heather Tianen

This will mark eight consecutive state tournament appearances for the Union boys basketball team

Paul Valencia
ClarkCountyToday.com

This is not supposed to be an automatic.

In fact, this year it was far from a sure thing.

But here we are, a week before the Class 4A state regional boys basketball round, and the Union Titans are still playing.

Sure thing.

The Union Titans started out a six-game league schedule with consecutive losses. Even their star player wondered if this team was going to figure it out in time.

Well, how’s this for timing?

The Titans are peaking, winners of 11 in a row. That includes a 3-0 record on the “left side” of the bi-district tournament bracket, qualifying them for the state tournament. It is the eighth consecutive season this program has reached the state’s final 16.

Evan Manville had the touch Friday night, burying seven 3-pointers, and Yanni Fassilis put on his own individual dunk contest — during the game — as Union rolled past Emerald Ridge 73-42. The victory sends Union to the state regionals. 

They, and every team in the final 16 in every classification, will find out their opponents and seeding on Sunday.

The Titans just might get a top-8 seed after their performance of late. That would assure them of a trip to the Tacoma Dome. Or, if the Titans get a 9-12 seed, they will have to win the regional game to advance to the dome, but that game would be played in Southwest Washington.

This weekend, the Titans just don’t really care who they play, nor where. They made it. Even after all their goals seemed so far from reach.

“A lot of people were doubting us at the beginning of the year,” Fassilis said. “We definitely had some doubts ourselves after we dropped those first two games in league. After that, we hunkered down, went to practice, worked, and started believing in ourselves. We got on a run, and now the sky’s the limit for this team.”

Fassilis, the 4A Greater St. Helens League player of the year, set the tone Friday night with five quick points, including the first of four dunks, a rebound, a steal, and he took a charge — in the first three minutes. 

Both teams, though, struggled on offense the rest of the first quarter.

Then the Titans unleashed Manville. He made four of the team’s five 3-pointers in the second quarter, and Union was on its way, up 35-22 at halftime.

Manville would hit two more 3-pointers in the third quarter, and added another in the fourth quarter for a 23-point performance.

“It’s really about confidence. My teammates were confident in me all season,” Manville said. “They knew I could hit those shot. They kept feeding me.”

Evan Manville was in the zone all night, making seven 3-pointers in his 23-point performance for the Union Titans. Photo courtesy Heather Tianen
Evan Manville was in the zone all night, making seven 3-pointers in his 23-point performance for the Union Titans. Photo courtesy Heather Tianen

Speaking of confidence, Manville said he always figured Union would find its way this season.

“We had a little bit of a rough start. We just kept pushing,” he said. “I was confident the whole time. I knew we could do it. We just had to keep pushing through.”

“That was our goal from Day One, to get there,” added Fassilis, who scored 17 points Friday night. “We took a little bit different route than in the past year, not being first in league. All that matters is we got there. Now we have to go prove ourselves.”

Union coach Blake Conley noted that the previous teams that reached state never lost two league games. Then this squad opened league 0-2. He called it new territory for everyone in the program.

“We were in a hole. We knew that,” Conley said. “There were some times in the season, even with some of the non-league losses, we could have rolled over and the season could have been different. These guys gathered together, and we just got better. That’s a testament to these guys and just trusting in each other.”

No, it wasn’t a sure thing. Well, until the Titans figured it out this season. Now, they are heading to state again.

“It doesn’t get old,” Conley said.

Playoff Notes:

Union joins Camas, the 4A GSHL champion, in the 4A Sweet 16. The Camas girls are also going to 4A state.

In Class 3A, the Mountain View boys lost Friday night but get one more chance to qualify for state. The Thunder host Todd Beamer on Saturday for the final berth to state from the 3A bi-district tournament. 

In Class 2A, Ridgefield was the lone Clark County survivor in boys basketball. The Spudders won their elimination game Thursday to qualify for state.

The Columbia River girls, the 2A GSHL champions, made it to state earlier in the week.

In Class 1A girls basketball, Seton Catholic finished second in the district tournament and is going to state.

In 1A boys basketball, King’s Way Christian has clinched a trip to state and will play Elma in the district championship game on Saturday. Meanwhile, Seton Catholic and La Center play for third-place in an elimination game. Winner goes to state. Loser is done. The third-place game is at 5:30 p.m. at Castle Rock High School. The championship game will follow.


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