The Chronicle’s 2019 All-Area Boys Basketball Team: Well-Rounded Game Makes Arceo-Hansen All-Area Hoops MVP

The Chronicle’s 2019 All-Area Boys Basketball Team synchronizes their dribbling during the All-Area photo shoot last Thursday at Michael Smith Gymnasium in Centralia. Left to Right: Centralia’s Michael Ajoge, Winlock’s Bryce Cline, Toledo’s Fano Arceo-Hansen (MVP), Adna’s Austen Apperson and W.F. West’s Colby White. Not pictured: Napavine’s Dawson Stanley.

Box and One: Toledo, Adna, Napavine, Winlock, Centralia and W.F. West Land Players on Elite Squad

By Jordan Nailon

jnailon@chronline.com

For a game affectionately referred to as roundball by its fans, basketball sure tries to put its participants in a box.

Games are most often played in a cubicle gymnasium and on a rectangular court. Big players regularly square off down on the block and free throws are shot with both teams assembled around the parallelogram of the key area.

What’s more, players are typically typified into particular positions based primarily on their physical characteristics. Tall, short. Fast, slow. These are the metrics that traditionally determine whether a player is a guard, forward, or center. In turn, that kind of typecasting usually steers a player toward a certain sort of statline that’s accentuated by their personal skill set.

Specific roles are emphasized and reinforced by both habit and tradition. Tall guys get blocks and rebounds. Short guys shoot and collect steals. Heck, in its original incarnation players were even restricted to specific parts of the court. Guards played defense. Centers roamed the midcourt, and forwards were charged with chasing all the scoring down by their team’s hoop.

Those roles have worked well for both teams and players year in and year out but every once in awhile a player comes around who refuses to be confined by either expectation or tradition.

As per usual, this year’s rendition of The Chronicle’s All-Area boys basketball team features a handful of players who found loads of success by embracing their specific role on their team. However, the 2018-19 All-Area MVP managed to separate himself from his peers by eschewing those conventions and filing a robust and diverse statline night in and night out.

Fano Arceo-Hansen, a senior do-it-all from Toledo, has been tabbed as the MVP of this season’s All-Area boys basketball team. He is flanked by a handful of players who dominated their specific assignment on the court night after night including Adna point guard Austen Apperson, Napavine shooting guard Dawson Stanley, Winlock shooting guard Bryce Cline, Centralia forward Michael Ajoge, and W.F. West center Colby White.

Standing a svelte 6-foot-3, Arceo-Hansen was blessed with a body that’s naturally inclined to perform a wide variety of tasks on the hardwood. A four-year varsity player in Toledo, Arceo-Hansen missed just two games in his career and broke the school record with 106 varsity games played. Along the way this year he managed to score 12.2 points per game, while grabbing 7.4 rebounds. He also snatched 2.5 steals, dished 2.2 assists, and registered just under one full block per game. He managed to accrue that impressive array of stats all while maintaining an efficient approach on offense, shooting 52 percent from the field — including a 54-percent clip from three point land.

Those counting stats made sure that Arceo-Hansen saw his name in print plenty again this season but it was his team’s record that kept Toledo in the headlines longer than any other squad. After graduating several key players form last year’s team, a senior heavy Toledo squad managed to clinch a Central 2B League title with a perfect 10-0 mark in conference. Toledo then secured a District 4 championship with a convincing win over Willapa Valley before bringing home a fourth-place trophy from the state tournament in Spokane.

As their primary defensive stopper and leading scorer, Arceo-Hansen had a big hand in each and every one of his team’s victories along the way.

“His official position, he’s a four man, that slasher type. The thing that friends of mine, or my college buddies, when they look at the team, they don’t know who the best player is. It’s not like you have a Dawson Stanly or some guy scoring 25 a game. You just have a lot of really good players,” noted Toledo coach Grady Fallon. “I mean, how many league MVPs score 12 points a game? Not very many. There’s just so many other factors that go into it that make him so valuable. He’s going to be hard to replace.”

While his per game statistics from this season may not be eye popping, a closer look at his career output helps to put Arceo-Hansen’s impact into perspective. In addition to being the all-time leader in games played at Toledo he wound up third in school history in rebounds with 731, trailing only notable big fellas Artem and Rally Wallace. He is also tied with Jason King for third all-time in steals with 176, sits at sixth all-time in blocks and he sits at ninth all-time in assists. Additionally, Arceo-Hansen finished tied with Jesse Wallace for 20th all-time in school scoring. In that category he trails at least eight members of the tall Wallace family tree, as well as Fallon himself, who is currently seventh on the all-time scoring list in Cheesetown.

Fallon noted that since Arceo-Hansen was a sophomore he has put up the highest marks according to the coach’s fancy computer algorithm for differential. That score essentially measures how much better a team plays when a particular player is on the court.

“That’s why he’s been playing. I mean, he’d score 10 points on three shots,” said Fallon of the underclassmen version of Arceo-Hansen. “It was the same. He was the rebounder and the defensive guy. He was just the garbage guy then. As he continued to work hard he started to gain respect. People were looking at him to see what he’d do.”

Fallon says that a commitment to defense is what made this year’s team special, and resistant to lasting slumps.

“These guys really bought in on the defensive end from the beginning. I think that’s what helped us out a lot in the playoffs,” Fallon said.

Unsurprisingly, Arceo-Hansen agrees with his coach and says he has assumed the jack-of-all-trades role among his teammates ever since they started playing together in fourth grade.

“If somebody’s hot we’re going to give them ball because anyone can get hot on our team at any time. It’s just whoever had the hot hand really, and if we needed a bucket I’d try to take over,” Arceo-Hansen said. “But, you can always rely on your defense and rebounding.”

While he weighs his options for playing either college football or basketball next year, Arceo-Hansen added that bringing home some hardware for the trophy case in Toledo was a uniquely satisfying accomplishment for their close knit team.

“It felt good because just being there with all my homies since forever and to accomplish a goal we’d had since forever just to get there and to get a trophy this time,” he said. “It felt great.”

Toledo will be facing a rebuild next year thanks to a roster in 2018-19 that featured 10 seniors. Fallon feels that the consistently selfless approach of Arceo-Hansen has helped to create the next generation of hoopers to understand how to play the Toledo way.

“They definitely had a good role model. Fano had some good role models as he grew up, too. Reece (Wallace) putting time in in the gym. Junior (Arroyo) was crashing the boards,” said Fallon. “Like I said it wasn’t just points. He works hard. He shows up every day. He’s doing other things outside the classroom. Now he’s in the record books.”

Over in Napavine the Tigers had a player who had no misconceptions about his role on the team. For Dawson Stanley, a 6-foot senior, the expectations were straightforward — score as many points as you can and do everything else humanly possible.

As the go-to guy on an inexperienced team full of guys who are more familiar on the gridiron than the hardwood, Stanley averaged 18.2 points, 6.6 rebounds, 3.1 assists, and 1.2 steals per game. That output helped Napavine to a fifth place finish in the Central 2B League and an overall record of 15-11. Perhaps their most memorable game was a multiple overtime affair with Adna on the Tigers’ home court in which Stanley’s hot hand seemingly single-handedly propelled his team to victory. Napavine finished just one game shy of advancing to Spokane before a two-point loss to Oroville ended their season.

Out in Adna the Pirates were a team that stood in stark contrast to Napavine. Instead of leaning on one player to carry the bulk of the load the Pirates featured a collection of similarly skilled players who shared the scoring burden night in and night out. Austen Apperson, a 5-10 point guard, was the player charged with distributing the basketball in a fashion that kept everyone involved and happy.

Following that approach Adna wound up with a record of 7-3 in the Central 2B League, which was good enough for a third place finish. The Pirates overall record was 15-8 after they bowed out of the District Tournament a little earlier than they would have liked. During the course of their season Apperson managed to drop in 12.2 points, three assists, and 2.2 steals per game.

“Like a lot of teams starting out from the beginning our goal was to make it to state,” said Apperson. “We were competitive with every team we played. We lost to Toledo twice and Napavine twice but every game was a good close battle. In basketball it’s a game of runs and it comes down to who makes more shots and it turned out to be us not as many times as we wanted.”

Apperson said the early portion of the season was a bit of an adjustment period for him as his coach and teammates leaned on him to score a bit more than he was accustomed. That change was necessary after the Pirates graduated Cody Young and Conner Weed from last season’s team.

“In the past I’ve always been the sixth man on the team so the role was new to me,” Apperson explained. “It was a little different but that just meant we had to play more together as a team.”

While they fell short of their team goal, Apperson says his team never wavered in their confidence or their commitment to one another.

“We felt that if we had made it to regionals, and maybe played Oroville, we would have had as good of chance as anyone to beat them. But overall, the season was a ton of fun,” said Apperson.

Over in Eggtown the Cardinals were carried to the postseason thanks in large part to the play by six foot junior guard Bryce Cline.

Cline carried a lot of water for Winlock this season, posting 17 points, eight rebounds, and four assists per game. That output helped the Cardinals secure a berth to the District Tournament where they knocked off Ocosta, Adna, and Morton-White Pass. Losses to Life Christian Academy and Toutle Lake ultimately did them in.

Despite those team accomplishments and his personal output Cline didn’t come away satisfied this season.

“I don’t think it went too great. I mean, we could have done way better. Our record really didn’t show how good of a team we were but at the end of the year we really stepped it up and played our hardest,” Cline explained.

A natural scorer, Cline says if he had his choice he’d receive the ball at the free-throw line extended out by the three-point line

“That’s my favorite spot to shoot it, and I can drive from there. I like the post too. I like everywhere. I’m not too picky,” Cline noted.

Next year he expects to help lift his team into contention for a C2BL title. He says that effort will begin with extra work in the offseason.

“I love defense. Good defense is a good offense and that’s what I like,” Cline said. “Personally, next year I probably just want to get a little bit stronger and faster.”

It was a couple of traditional big men who made their way onto the All-Area team from the 2A ranks

Michael Ajoge, a 6-4 forward, made his way through a tough Evergreen 2A Conference schedule putting in work with his back to the basket. That approach resulted in a stat line of 18 points and 8.9 rebounds per game. The Tigers’ only consistent scorer also managed to knock down 50 percent of his shots from the field

Centralia coach Kyle Donahue noted that Ajoge is one of the nicest kids he’s ever coached and called him a “double-double machine.” By Donahue’s estimate Ajoge topped double digits in both points and rebounds at least 14 times in a 21 game season. Donahue also noted that Ajoge perfected his in-game dunking technique just in time to throw down a rim rattler in front of a packed house during the final Swamp Cup rivalry game with W.F. West.

“My role was basically to be the scorer and put the ball in the hole. That was definitely my role so I just had to come in every night and try my best,” said Ajoge. “As the season went on you saw I started to get more double teams. So I just have to work around that and still find a way to score and do what I can to help my team.”

Ajoge says he plans on attending Centralia College next year and playing basketball. His future coaches will need to be sure to have their postup sets all squared away because there’s no doubt about where Ajoge likes to get the rock on offense.

“Down on the block in the post, with one guy on my back,” explained Ajoge. “I feel like I can do a lot of work in there.”

Big Colby White is the final member of The Chronicle’s 2019 All-Area basketball team.

Standing 6-6 under a bouncy mop of hair, White learned how to hold his own on the block by battling his brother Brandon through the years. With Brandon, a 2018 graduate of W.F. West, now slinging fastballs for Washington State University the “little” brother was free to roam the key this season looking for ill-fated shots to send back from whence they came.

This season Colby White set the school record for most blocks in a game with nine rejections against Centralia. That performance was not a one off, though, as White also managed to tie his brother for most blocks in a season with 72 stuffs.

The younger White says that even though his brother is now in Pullman the trash talk they’d honed over the years didn’t dissipate over the distance.

“(Brandon) just kept telling me that I wasn’t going to get it,” White said. “He’s really mad at me and I’m mad at myself for not beating him. But we’re both fine with it, I guess.”

The elder White brother no doubt found solace in the fact that he still holds the record for most blocks in a career.

Like his brother, Colby White was not a one trick pony for the Bearcats. With an increased role this season he managed to tally 8.9 points, 7.9 rebounds, and 3.1 blocks per game. He also slammed home more than 10 in-game dunks on the season according to his coach, and father, Chris White.

“Kayden Kelly, and Colton (Baker) and (Tyler) Speck really go hard on defense so it made it easy on me to sit back and guard the big guy and wait for somebody to attack,” explained Colby White.

With a 6-4 record in EvCo play the Bearcats advanced to the District Tournament before getting knocked out of the playoffs.

“I feel like our strength was our speed and athleticism but our weakness was not playing our own game and trying to play with other teams and shoot,” White said. “I felt like we could have achieved more. Unfortunately it just didn’t go our way in districts.”

A senior, White says he plans to join his brother at WSU next year so he can join the track team as a high jumper — an event in which he’s the defending 2A state champion.

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