With Mark Morris’ ongoing dominance of the series and the looming specter of school consolidation, there was a very real worry that the Lumberdome would never again sound like it did on Friday.
But a little more than a quarter in, some of that Civil War magic of yore returned to the old building.
It was fleeting, as Mark Morris strung together lengthy scoring runs in the second and third quarters to pull way from R.A. Long for a 78-48 victory and clinch the Greater St. Helens 2A League title.
But despite playing for nothing but the chance to be a spoiler, the young Jacks had gone right at the seventh-ranked Monarchs from the 124th opening tip.
“We just said that we could compete, we just had to play how we play,” RAL forward Jacob Johnston said, and for a little while, he was right.
When Lumberjacks guard Bryce Eisele burst forward for a steal and diving reverse layup to pull RAL to within 18-17 early in the second quarter, the atmosphere was electric.
“I’ve had a lot of people comment that the enormity of the game has gone away from the time when they used to have to chase people out ... and all the folklore that went along with it,” MM coach Bill Bakamus said. “But you know what? When you get out here and watch the performance of these two teams, it was very, very spirited.”
The Monarch run was always going to come, and when it did, it broke all Jack resistance.
Ryan Littlefield answered Eisele’s spinning layup with a powerful drive and bank shot, beginning a run of five straight scoring possessions for the Monarchs. Littlefield scored all of his 14 points in the first half.
“I tell you what, Ryan Littlefield had a heck of a game around the basket in that first half,” RAL coach Rally Wallace said. “He was getting every missed shot. ... Littlefield really showed up tonight and I have to take my hat off to him.”
R.A. Long rotated defenses all night, but none could put the brakes on the MM run. When it sat back in a zone, Grant Gibb smoothly knocked down a 3-pointer. When it switched into man, Tanner Brill created off the dribble and Littlefield took advantage of isolation.
By the time Nolan Luedke broke the streak with a running layup, Mark Morris had taken a 30-19 lead.
“You don’t want teams hanging around, and you certainly don’t want young teams hanging around,” Bakamus said. “Sometimes, young teams just don’t know any better. ... I think that was the defining moment as to how we were going to play it out the rest of the way.”
R.A. Long never folded, but never truly threatened the Monarch lead again. Mark Morris ripped off a 14-2 run early in the third quarter to put the game out of reach.
“We wanted to get that jump right before half so we could come out and be a little more comfortable offensively,” MM senior Von Johnson said.
The win put the Monarch in familiar territory — atop the GSHL throne. Mark Morris has now won at least a share of 13 straight league titles.
“We like to collect trophies,” Bakamus said. “... I personally let them know that none of it should ever be taken for granted. It’s not something that just happens.
“It takes a lot of hard work and dedication and endless hours to be the top team.”
An old-school, rejuvenated Civil War atmosphere was an appropriate backdrop for the coronation.
MARK MORRIS (78) — Tanner Brill 7, Ryan Littlefield 14, Grant Gibb 10, Von Johnson 14, Hayden Tilton 6, Nate Teeters 11, Seth Huhta 4, A.J. Golden 9, Jared Bartleson 3, Keigan Baker 0.
R.A. LONG (48) — Payton Miller 9, Brady Hulings 2, Bryce Eisele 4, Owen Bertram 6, Jacob Johnston 5, Hunter Jones 4, Morgan Baker 8, Nolan Luedke 4, Matt Fugelberg 6, Juan Vazquez 0, Skylan O’Brien 0.
Mark Morris 18 21 23 16 — 78
R.A. Long 15 9 10 14 — 48