Union’s ‘special’ season comes to an end

Titans finished 24-3, which included a 22-game win streak

TACOMA — It was a frustrating morning on the basketball court for the Union Titans, but as soon as it was clear that they were not going to win, they turned to each other.

Hugs along the bench, teammates sharing one final moment in uniform together.

Puyallup never trailed Friday in the Tacoma Dome, ending Union’s season with a 61-48 win in the Class 4A boys basketball consolation semifinals.

“We just had such a special team. I’m going to miss these guys so much,” senior Ethan Smith said. “What we were able to do was unlike any other team I’ve been a part of, on and off the court. I just don’t want it to end.”

 

Tanner Toolson of Union, shown here earlier this season, scored 18 points Friday morning in the consolation semifinals at the state basketball tournament in the Tacoma Dome. Photo by Mike Schultz
Tanner Toolson of Union, shown here earlier this season, scored 18 points Friday morning in the consolation semifinals at the state basketball tournament in the Tacoma Dome. Photo by Mike Schultz

 

Union finished the season 24-3, which included another 4A Greater St. Helens League title. It also is the fifth consecutive trip to the Tacoma Dome for the WIAA state tournament. And the Titans will always get to look back on the 22-game win streak they had this season.

“They were not projected to do what they did,” Union coach Blake Conley said. “They are so coachable, so tough. … They love each other.”

He saluted Smith and Houston Combs for their “unprecedented” leadership.

The Titans, perhaps still reeling from the sting of losing in the quarterfinals on Thursday, had a rough start to the 9 a.m. game, scoring eight points in each of the first two quarters.

The Vikings increased the lead to 16 in the third quarter, but the Titans had one more push in them.

Tanner Toolson, Combs, Ariya Briscoe, and Brad Lackey combined to go on a 15-2 run to end the third quarter, making it a three-point game.

Union’s Houston Combs, shown here earlier this season, was credited by his coach for showing tremendous leadership along teammate Ethan Smith. Photo by Mike Schultz
Union’s Houston Combs, shown here earlier this season, was credited by his coach for showing tremendous leadership along teammate Ethan Smith. Photo by Mike Schultz

“We were never going to give up,” said Smith, who had nine points in his final high school game. “We knew we had faith in each other. Unfortunately, it did not work out today.”

Toolson ended up with 18 points and four steals in the season finale.

Turnovers, which cursed Union in the quarterfinals, too, hurt in the comeback bid early in the fourth quarter. Still, Union’s defense did enough to hang around the Vikings for a bit.

Lackey’s 3-pointer with 2:32 remaining made it a one-point game at 47-46, and Alishawuan Taylor’s basket 35 seconds later brought it back to a one-point game again at 49-48.

It was all Puyallup from there as the Vikings would go 10 for 10 from the line down the stretch.
“The coaches said don’t look as the season as a failure,” Smith said. “What we were able to do was special. We’ve got to keep our heads up.”

“I’m bummed we didn’t give ourselves an opportunity to play one more day,” Conley said. “That’s not what they’ll remember when they reflect back on the season.”

No, these Titans will realize what a special run it was, earning the top seed in the RPI system with that win streak, and letting everyone know that the 4A GSHL still belongs to them.

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About The Author

Paul Valencia joins ClarkCountyToday.com after more than two decades of newspaper experience. He became the face of high school sports coverage in Clark County during his 17 years at The Columbian. Before moving to Vancouver, Paul worked at Oregon daily newspapers in Pendleton, Roseburg, and Salem. A graduate of David Douglas High School in Portland, Paul enlisted in the U.S. Army, serving three years as a soldier/journalist. He and his wife Jenny recently celebrated their 20th anniversary. They have a son who has a passion for karate and Minecraft. Paul’s hobbies include: Watching the Raiders play football, reading about the Raiders playing football, and waiting to watch and read about the Raiders playing football.

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