Boys Basketball: Too Much Speck Sinks Centralia in Chehalis
Rivalry Romp: Bearcats Turn it Up in the Second Half to Put Tigers Away
By Jordan Nailon
The Tigers managed to keep it close for the first half here Thursday night but then things began to change quickly in the second half.
When the Bearcats forced yet another in a series of turnovers and Colby White caught an outlet pass in stride as he galloped down the court the anticipation level rose up to meet the banner clad rafters at W.F. West — Moments later he was rising up with two hands and snapping the rim to finish an emphatic dunk that sent the Bearcat crazies into a frenzy and gave his team a commanding 48-28 lead.
While the Tigers managed to chip away at that deficit down the stretch they were never quite able to catch up as the hometown Bearcats locked down a 60-48 win in an Evergreen 2A Conference boys basketball game that doubled as round one of the hardwood edition of the Swamp Cup.
“I was actually running right behind him on that and I was like, ‘Colby you just need to bust this. You’re all good, You’re all good!’” said fellow Bearcat Tyler Speck. “The whole court got loud so it was actually really cool. It was a good momentum change.”
White finished the game with a balanced stat sheet of nine points to go with a team-high seven rebounds and six blocks. It was Speck though, that cheerleading trailer on the fastbreak, who wound up as the star of the show.
Speck, a 6’3” junior shooting guard for W.F. West, scored a game-high 21 points and five steals to help keep the Tigers’ advances at bay. That output included three of seven shooting from downtown and a nine of 16 effort from inside the arc.
“He did a real nice job on offense. We floated him into the bubble a little bit in the middle of the zone and he found his niche there and he hit a few threes,” said W.F. West coach Chris White. “He had some nice run outs and some nice layins. He did good.”
The Bearcats wrapped up the first quarter with a 23-18 lead when Eli Burdick-Wesen knocked down a catch and shoot three point attempt at the buzzer. W.F. West tried to run away in the second quarter and pushed their lead out to 32-22 with less than two minutes remaining in the half. A quick mini-run by Centralia got them back within sniffing distance of the Bearcats before Malakai Emmons improvised off of a tipped pass and scored on wrything layup just before the half. That bucket made the score 34-26 heading into the intermission and seemed to have Centralia believing in their ability to overcome their early shortcomings.
However, those positive vibrations quickly dissipated in that decisive third quarter where W.F. West wound up outscoring their cross Scatter Creek foes 16-10. Coach White said his team’s rededication to the finer details of roundball after the intermission was the reason they were finally able to find a little breathing room. That wasn’t exactly the case in the first quarter when rivalry game adrenaline had both teams playing like it was MTV Rock ‘n Jock Basketball and producers just rolled out the fifty point hoop.
“It was kind of sloppy for sure,” White said of early returns before dissecting what made the difference in the third quarter. “A better shot selection and we were just slowing things down a little bit on offense. And defensively trying to get out of that lunging mode of lunging at guys and letting it be 5-on-4.”
It was that streaking slam dunk by White with just over three minutes remaining in the third quarter that signaled the inevitable end for the Tigers. While coaches are bound by secret code to eschew the virtues of small ball, the dad in Chris White couldn’t help but get a little giddy over his son’s two-handed throwdown in the Tilt of the Twin Cities.
“It’s fun to see that. You know, senior year, and a dunk against Centralia, that’s a big deal. I know I enjoyed that,” admitted White.
The scoreboard told a depressing tale for the Tigers but they refused to go away without extending their claws one more time. Centralia beat W.F. West in the rebounding battle 33-28 for the game and Emmons continued to attack from both inside and outside for the duration. He finished with a team-high 17 points and eight rebounds and six steals. Ajoge added 16 points and seven steals as Centralia whittled the W.F. West lead back down to 10 points with about three minutes left.
With time running short, though, Centralia was forced to resort to a barrage of fouls that sent the Bearcats to the free throw line over and over in an ill-fated comeback attempt. A total of 23 turnovers for the Tigers conspired to keep them out of striking distance down the stretch.
That resiliency after falling behind by twenty points left Centralia coach Kyle Donahue feeling encouraged despite the rivalry loss.
“I told the guys after the game, ‘You know it’s not the outcome we would have wanted at the end but the team that we were at the start of the season seven or eight weeks ago would have buckled at that point,” said Donahue. “All it takes is three, four, five plays in a row to get you back in a game and they did. They came out and had a lot of good heart and good effort to get us back in the game.”
It was the play of Ajoge, specifically, that caught the eye of Coach White. That’s because the Bearcats had set a lofty goal of shutting him down offensively.
“We didn’t really succeed as much as we were hoping,” laughed White. “We really love his game and think he’s a terrific player. We just kept telling our kids, ‘Don’t let him get the deep post up,’ and he kept getting that deep post up. It’s tough duty. He’s got great footwork and if he buries you he’s got good moves to finish. We didn’t get a good grade on that.”
White also had compliments for his own team, even though he was disgusted with their four of 13 shooting performance from the free throw line. He pointed out Kaelin Hazen, who scored six points, and Burdick-Wesen, who scored five points, for bringing big energy off of the bench. White also made note of the defensive efforts of Troy Yarter, who added five assists to his resume for good measure. Colton Baker added 16 points and six rebounds for the Bearcats.
W.F. West (6-9, 3-2 conference) will play Mark Morris in the Martin Luther King Classic on Monday at Lower Columbia College in Longview. Centralia (2-13, 1-4 conference) will play at Tumwater on Wednesday.
BEARCATS 60, TIGERS 48
Centralia 18 8 10 12 —48
Chehalis 23 11 16 10 —60
Centralia (48) — Brown 2, Ajoge 16, Emmons 17, Milton 4, Beairsto 4, Valencia 2, House 3
FG: 21 of 49 —.450 FT: 2 of 4 —.500 Reb: 33 (Emmons 8, Ajoge 7)
W.F. West (60) —Wesen 5, Jones 1, Hazen 6, Yarter 2, Speck 21, Baker 16, White 9
FG: 25 of 55 —.450 FT: 4 of 13 —.300 Reb: 28 (White 7, Baker 6)