Monday’s Boys Basketball: Bearcats Let One Slip Away at MLK Classic
Measuring Up: W.F. West Can’t Keep Pace with Mark Morris in Possible District Preview
By Jordan Nailon
LONGVIEW — There were brief flashes of brilliance from the Bearcat boys here at Myklebust Gymnasium at Lower Columbia College on Monday night – Colton Baker finished the night with a game-high 24 points and Colby White threw down another one of his trademark slam dunks that’s equal parts elegance and fury.
Over 32 minutes though that energy proved unsustainable. After leading for much of the first quarter W.F. West dropped a non-league boys basketball contest versus Mark Morris by a score of 69-56.
The game served as a flickering finale to the annual Martin Luther King Classic and pitted two perennial District 4 title contenders against each other just three weeks before that tournament is set to start.
Colton Baker got off to a kinetic start to help the Bearcats out of the gate. After six minutes of play W.F. West held a 16-13 lead but by the end of the quarter their advantage had disappeared and Mark Morris owned an 18-16 edge. The Bearcats would wind up trialing the rest of the way.
Dawson Fritz led the Mark Morris charge with 21 points, 10 rebounds and three assists as the Monarchs outscored W.F. West in every quarter.
“They got it up the floor very quick. We’ve got to slow them down. I don’t like how easily Fritz got up and down the floor and kind of set the tempo and dictated it. We’ve got to do a much better job of slowing him job, making him change directions and not letting him get a full head of steam,” said W.F. West coach Chris White.
However, White was pleased with the way Baker was looking to create offensively for his team.
“We love it when he attacks the rim and he found a lot of opportunities to attack off the dribble and draw fouls or just take it strong to the rack,” said White of his slash and cut guard. “We love it when he does that. That’s the role we’d like him to play and he played it well tonight for sure.”
Baker knocked down eight of nine free throws on the way to his game-high tally.
Foul trouble hampered W.F. West all game long and they were already playing without big man Leandre Gaines who has been out of town for a premier baseball event. That left the Bearcats looking to some unfamiliar faces in the early going.
“The positive thing was we were able to get some young kids in the game early and they really showed a lot of grit and they fought hard and kept that game close in the first half with all the foul trouble we had,” said White. He listed Cade Haller, Max Taylor, Brit Lusk, and Carter McCoy as the sophomore unit that came up big on Monday.
W.F. West wound up trailing 35-29 at the half. Midway through the third quarter the Bearcats went on a 6-0 run that was punctuated by that aforementioned opportunistic slam dunk by White to put the game at 39-36 with momentum seemingly in their favor. White finished with six blocks, seven points, six rbounds, and three assists.
A Kayden Kelly three pointer later in that frame cut their deficit to just two points but the Monarchs refused to break and slowly reclaimed their cushion thanks in part to 19 points in the fourth quarter.
The Bearcats made only three of 18 three point shots on the night while Mark Morris hit three of five from downtown. More importantly, Coach White said that his team is still taking applications for defensive stopper.
“We’re searching for that sometimes. We miss that defensive tenacity at times and Leandre is a big part of that,” said White. “Troy Yarter does a good job with that but we’re trying to get everybody better at that, honestly.”
Where Baker was the only Bearcat in double digits Mark Morris had a balanced scoring ledger that included 16 points from Rarey Sommer and 12 points from Jack Shipley to buffer Frtiz’ 21.
Mark Morris coach Bill Bakamus, who just recently collected his 600th career win, said he came away impressed with the high octane performance of Baker.
“I thought Baker was a handful. He was super efficient in the first half on drives and I just liked the energy that he brought,” Bakamus said.
He added that he knows the Bearcats will improve when Gaines gets back and that, aside from one major caveat, there appears to be a more level playing field from top to bottom in both the Greater St. Helens League and the Evergreen Conference this season.
“Columbia River is legit. Columbia River has played a very tough non-league schedule. They have four starters back from a team that placed at state and they are firing on all cylinders and they’ve been firing on all cylinders since game one. I’ve yet to see a hiccup,” emphasized Bakamus. “They are a notch above everybody in our league and everybody up north. If you look at it from a parity stand point for the north and south combined there’s probably six teams that are pretty equal…But people need to know that River is as good as advertised.”
W.F. West (6-10, 3-2 conference) will play at Rochester on Wednesday.
MONARCHS 69, BEARCATS 56
W.F. West 16 13 13 14 —56
Mark Morris 18 17 15 19 —69
W.F. West (56) — Kelly 5, Taylor 2, Jones 4, Hazen 2, Speck 8, Baker 24, White 7, McCoy 2, Lusk 2
FG: 18 of 44—.400 FT: 17 of 26 —.65 Reb: 18 (White 6)
Mark Morris (69) — Fritz 21, Harris 5, Busch 2, Gibb 6, Shipley 12, Sprague 7, Sommer 16
FG: 21 of 50 —.420 FT: 24 of 37 —.640 Reb: 45 (Fritz 10)