For the third consecutive season, the Union Titans proved they were one of the best boys Class 4A high school basketball teams in the state of Washington.
Union, which finished fourth at the state tournament last year and third in 2015, finished second at this year’s state tourney, losing 81-61 to Kentwood in Saturday’s championship game at the Tacoma Dome.
“I am so proud of the effort and accomplishments of this group,’’ said Union coach Blake Conley. “They played the right way, unselfish and for each other. We had guys buy into their roles, no matter how big or small. They truly loved each other and it showed throughout the season. I could not be more pleased with what this did was able to do this season.’’
Titans’ forward Cameron Cranston, who last week was named the state’s 4A Player of the Year, was named the Most Valuable Player of this year’s state tournament.The 6-foot-6 senior had 65 points in Union’s three state tournament games last week, including 22 in the championship game.
“Cameron gave us everything he had, which was no surprise,’’ Conley said. “He was the focus of everyone’s defense and when he didn’t score, he opened up the court for other guys like Tyler Combs, Zach Reznick and Keithen Shepard. Cameron scored in every way he could and also rebounded, blocked shots and played tough defense. Cameron was truly amazing and deserving of being tournament MVP.’’
Cranston had 20 of his team-high 22 points in the first half of Saturday’s game to help Union post a 39-37 halftime lead. Cranston made six of his seven shots in the first half, including four of five from 3-point range.
Union took its two-point lead when Kai Gamble scored on a rebound and putback layup in the final seconds of the second quarter.
Cranston was the focus of the Kentwood defense in the second half. The Conquerors double- and even triple-teamed Cranston, preventing Union’s standout forward from getting the basketball on many possessions and limiting his scoring opportunities.
“Kentwood put Darius Lubom, their league MVP on Cameron and denied him all over the court,’’ Conley said of Kenwood’s defensive adjustments. “They also doubled and even tripled Cameron when he did get it. I thought we got some decent looks in the third quarter, we just didn’t make them. They also shot 58 percent on offense and that obviously helped them out. They had not shot that well the previous two times we played them. Kentwood played a great game offensively and defensively, they were better that night, you have to give them that.’’
Kentwood, which started five seniors, outscored Union 44-22 in the final two quarters. Four of the Conquerors’ five starters scored in double figures, led by Rayvaughn Bolton, who had 19 points. Lubom added 18 for Kentwood, which won two out of the three games played between the teams this season.
Union junior guard Tyler Combs added 13 points in the championship game. Combs finished with 40 total points in the three games at the state tournament.
Union advanced to the championship game with a hard-fought 63-61 win over Richland in Friday’s semifinals. Cranston’s layup with three seconds remaining in the game proved to be the game winner. Cranston finished with 25 points in the win over the Bombers and Combs added 14.
Union graduates Cranston and five other seniors but the Titans return six players off this year’s team.
“Union basketball is in a great place,’’ Conley said. “We lose a special group of seniors but they have shown the younger guys what it takes to play at the highest level possible. We have some strong pieces back and our JV and C teams had outstanding seasons, so if they work hard in the off season, we will have another strong season next year.’’