SPOKANE, Wash. — It was March sadness for the Naselle boys basketball team.
At the state basketball tournament, the Comets bounced back from a second-round loss to play Oakesdale for a chance to compete for a trophy on the final day. But WIAA’s smallest 1B division, dominated year-round by Eastern Washington teams, stayed true to form.
After a promising start by Naselle, Oakesdale found its groove, never giving up its lead through the final three quarters, and won 68-52.
“It was a tough day for us,” said head coach Brian Macy. “We couldn’t get that couple of bounces.”
He had predicted his players would regroup after the second-round loss to Almira-Coulee-Hartline, and was pleased to be proved right. “We knew that they would come out with grit and resolve — the effort was there.”
However, poor rebounding, which had been a pitfall all tournament, meant the Comets too often allowed Oakesdale players to try again when their shots hit the rim. “You can’t give good teams second and third opportunities,” the coach said.
The game began in a promising manner. After Oakesdale opened the scoring, Ethan Lindstrom and Cole Dorman both hit 3-pointers. Jacob Eaton scored from close in after some efficient passes from Kolby Glenn and Antonio Nolan, then added another.
Nolan used a clever fake to gain space for his shot and bring the score to 13-8 just as a pickup truck advertisement saying “game changer” scrolled across the stadium’s reader boards. Oakesdale shifted the momentum to restrict Naselle’s lead to 15-13 as the quarter buzzer sounded.
The Nighthawks came back out with new vigor, tied the score to a roar from their bench, added another basket to take the lead — a lead they would never relinquish — and then another.
At 6-4, Oakesdale senior Kieron Anderson was the tallest player Naselle faced all week. He used height and speed to rack up his game-high 22 points. Three other Nighthawks scored in double figures; only Nolan (12) and Eaton (11) matched them.
The loss came on the third day. Naselle had started the tournament well with a 54-51 win over Garfield-Palouse which began with a shaky first quarter, a steady lead, and then a nail-biting finale.
Next came a familiar buzz-saw, Almira-Coulee-Hartline, which had beaten Naselle with conviction at football late last fall. The Comets began well in this game, but just like Oakesdale, once the Warriors got ahead they held onto the lead and won 54-37.
The coach consoled and congratulated his team Friday. For seniors Nolan, Dorman, Eaton, Ian Fontanilla and Vince Fauver it was their last for NHS.
“It was a great season. I would like to thank our seniors — they brought our program a long way,” Macy said. “They have put in the hard work and set the standard. I told the younger guys that they have got some big shoes to fill.”
Sunnyside Christian, which beat Naselle Feb. 23, justified its first-place ranking by winning the state 1B championship, defeating Yakama Tribal School 54-45. Almira-Coulee-Hartline lost its semifinal to the Yakima school 55-53, then lost its trophy game to third-place Muckleshoot Tribal School 68-44, finishing fifth. Oakesdale played for fourth against Odessa, losing 63-45 and going home with the sixth-place trophy.