Titans remain perfect in boys basketball but lose key player due to injury
BATTLE GROUND — The Union Titans took the lead with just a couple seconds left on the clock.
After a timeout, they survived an incredibly good look by the Battle Ground Tigers, who were trying to send shockwaves through the rest of the state.
It was time for Union to celebrate.
The Union Titans clinched at least a share of the Class 4A Greater St. Helens League boys basketball title.
They clinched the top seed to the bi-district tournament.
They kept their perfect record, too.
So, yes, how they won, and what they earned, was worthy of a party of sorts on the floor at Battle Ground High School on Tuesday night.
Their 73-72 victory, courtesy of Ariya Briscoe’s lay-up with two seconds to play and a bunch of clutch shots from Mason Hill and Kaden Horn, gave the Titans the right to feel all that joy.
Minutes later, though, many of the Titans walked out of the locker in tears.
Their teammate, their brother, had received some devastating news.
Senior guard Brad Lackey, who fell to the court in pain with less than three minutes to play, found out that his season is likely finished. More tests will be needed to confirm, but he told reporters that the initial diagnosis is a torn ligament.
The Union Titans are 18-0, 6-0 in league, and will remain among the favorites to get a trophy at the state tournament. It will just be a tougher challenge without Lackey.
Still, before hearing the bad news, they had a few minutes to take in what just happened against the Tigers. And a whole lot happened:
Battle Ground led for the first three quarters.
Union would take its first lead with 6:29 to play in the fourth. It was the first of seven lead changes the rest of the way.
Kaden Perry of Battle Ground made two free throws to give the Tigers a 72-68 lead with 16 seconds left.
Union quickly got down the floor and Hill buried a 3-pointer, his fourth 3-pointer of the quarter, to make it a one-point game with eight seconds to play.
The Tigers missed the front end of a 1-and-1 and Union called a timeout with seven seconds. The inbound pass was tipped and went out of bounds near mid court with five seconds to play.
Oh, still a lot of basketball to be played.
Tanner Toolson found Briscoe sprinting down the middle of the court, he caught the ball, then split two defenders on his way to the layup for a 73-72 lead.
Timeout Battle Ground with two seconds left.
The Tigers then threw a perfect pass three-quarters of the length of the court to Perry, who found an open teammate, but the shot just missed at the horn.
“That’s just amazing,” Briscoe said of his first varsity game-winning shot. “We just played together. We dug deep down, and we got the win.”
Hill had 19 points in the second half. Two of his 3-pointers came in the final two minutes when Union trailed by four points.
“I knew we were going to make shots. I knew we were going to play our hearts out,” Hill said. “I wasn’t worried.”
Kaden Horn was huge off the bench, as well, for the Titans, with big baskets and assists.
“We just kept our heads in it the whole game,” Horn said. “Just had to keep the energy going. I believed in it the whole time.
“I’ve never been in any game like that in my life,” Horn added. “That was amazing, playing against a great Battle Ground team.”
“They were insane,” Toolson said of the Tigers.
Indeed, Battle Ground led by double digits in the second quarter and just about always had an answer to any Union rally … until the final two seconds.
Kaden Perry had 28 points and 21 rebounds to lead the Tigers. Battle Ground fell to 3-2 in league play and hopes to win out to finish second.
Hill finished with 26 points to lead the Titans. Toolson had 21. Horn scored 12.
The Titans know they will be the top seed going to bi-district. They also know their record might still be perfect, but they are not invincible.
“It’s just a wakeup call,” Briscoe said. “We’ve got more competitive games coming. We’ve got to get ready for them.”
Thank you to veterans:
The Battle Ground Tigers give out free popcorn to veterans at many of their athletic events. For the most part, if the concession stand is open — football in the fall, basketball in the winter, for example — then the popcorn gift is available.
School officials make an announcement during contests, asking veterans to stand. They are then given a card, which says “Patriot Popcorn” on one side and has a thank-you message on the other side.