CENTRALIA, Wash. - "Rebounding and defense, that's what we've preached all season," Coach Brian Macy said, and those fundamental cornerstones were the key to the Comets' 69-39 rout of rival Wahkiakum in a loser-out district game at Centralia Saturday.

Austin Burkhalter nailed a pair of 3-pointers in the first minute, Nick Hines scored in the paint on a nifty cross-over move, and Nate Sultemeier made a jumper and a free throw to put Naselle up 11-0 at the 3:45 mark of the initial period. The game would get no closer as the Comets zipped to a 24-7 first quarter lead and never looked back.

The Comets led 39-15 at intermission and were up 58-28 at the end of the third frame. Hines held the Mules leading scorer Cody Olsen to eight points, with two of them coming on a pair of free throws made for an injured teammate, well below his 21.2 season scoring average. No Wahkiakum player scored in double figures.

For the Comets, Sultemeier led all scorers with 25 points and he doled out six assists. Conor Smith and Burkhalter each had double-doubles as Smith scored 10 and nabbed 10 rebounds, while Burkhalter had 11 points and 10 boards and both players passed for four assists. Manny Lopez came off the bench to score eight points and get six boards, while Randy Hamm knocked down five points and snared eight rebounds. Gabe See contributed two points and five rebounds as Comets reserves combined to score 16 points.

Lopez said, "I was excited to be able to play at district. This game helped me with my confidence."

Hamm added, "It felt good to get out there and play hard. The starters put the game away early so we could get in and I didn't want to let our team down." See said, "It is always good to beat the Mules and to be able to play a lot and whip them by 30 (points) is even better."

Hines had five points, four assists and seven rebounds to go along with his defensive work and Drew Macy, who also took a turn at guarding Olsen, scored two points. Ollie Baker added one and Alan Erickson had three rebounds, Alex Bennett had two assists and Leonel Mendoza one assist. Bennett related, "A game like this gives us confidence. It's great to be able to play and to beat the Mules."

Naselle out-rebounded the boys from Cathlamet 66-36, including snaring 21 rebounds in the second period. The Comets turned the basketball over 21 times to 15 and committed 22 fouls to Wahkiakum's 13. Naselle was 29-66 from the field (44 percent) and made 5-of-10 from the line, while the Mules were 12-for-58 for a chilly 21 percent, thanks in large part to Naselle's defensive efforts, and they were 14-of-26 from the charity stripe for 54 percent.

Coach Macy said, "It is nice to see us get off to a great start and out-rebound them like we did, and then play solid defense." Naselle is now 17-5 and will play Adna in Centralia at 8 tonight in another loser-out contest. If the Comets win that game, they will play for a trip to state Thursday in Chehalis at 8 p.m. against the loser of the White Pass-PeEll game.

GIRLS BASKETBALL: NW Christian 45, Naselle 26CENTRALIA, Wash. - Northwest Christian, arguably the most athletic team in the Pacific 2B League this season, pulled away from Naselle for a 44-26 win in the consolation bracket Saturday in Centralia, eliminating the Comets from the district tournament.

The first period the Comets' defense held the Navigators from Olympia to six points, but they were only able to manage four points themselves. Naselle only scored eight points in the first half on field goals from Shelby Leeland, Taylor Wasmundt and Nicole Tarabochia and two free throws from Nicole Laney.

In the third period Naselle came away with but five points on a field goal from Tarabochia, a foul shot from Laney and two freebies from Wasmundt. In the meantime NWC had taken a 29-13 lead into the final period of the loser-out fray.

In the final frame Naselle got to within 38-26, but would get no closer. Coach Bobby Torppa said, "We attacked the basket well in the final quarter, but we needed to do that the entire game."

Seniors Leeland scored four points and Jerrica Juarez played well defensively. Torppa said, "Our two seniors played hard all season and they did well today."

The Comets were 9-of-48 from the field for only 19 percent, as poor shooting was the Achilles heel for the team all season, but they were a respectable 8-of-13 from the line for 62 percent. NWC was 13-for-44 from the floor (30 percent) and won the game at the free throw line by making 17-of-29 (59 percent).

The Navigators out-rebounded Naselle 50-26, a telling statistic and turnovers were even at 18 apiece. Wasmundt led Naselle with seven points, Green added six, Tarabochia and Leeland had four each and Laney chipped in three points. Torppa made sure all of his players got into the game down the stretch as Lindsey O'Kelley made a basket to bring the Comets to within 12 points with 2:36 remaining.

Alysha Fox led Northwest Christian with 14 points, but six of them came in the last minute against Comets' reserves.

The Comets finish with a 6-16 mark for the year and they won the sportsmanship award for the Pacific 2B League.


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