There’s still growing to do, but Kelso and R.A. Long coaches were pleased with the effort and enthusiasm in the annual nonleague battle between the two schools.

Kelso beat R.A. Long 60-35 on Friday at Kelso High, a second-quarter run vaulting the Hilanders in their season opener.

“We settled in,” Kelso coach Joe Kinch said. “We still have plenty of work to do but I really love our competitive spirit.”

After gaining a slim 12-9 lead to end the first frame, Kelso found its groove and finished the half with an 18-4 run. Emmitt Kinch scored seven of those points, after Riley Noah scored eight points in the first quarter.

“We got good contributions from our three leaders in terms of scoring — Shaw (Anderson), Riley (Noah) and Emmitt (Kinch),” coach Kinch said. “I thought we were a little anxious early, but I thought we had a nice run there in the second quarter.”

Anderson finished the night with 13 points, Riley Noah with 14 points and Kinch scored 11 points.

RAL co-coach Rally Wallace, though his team lost, felt the Lumberjacks showed a lot to be proud of and was especially pleased with how they competed.

“We’re a green team, and each game out we’re going to be tested,” Wallace said. “Defensively, I thought we did a pretty good job on Kelso for the most part. Overall, I thought we did a good job. Our challenge is going to be putting the ball in the basket.”

The Lumberjacks started slowly in the opening quarter, with both teams playing a choppy game, but each seemed to feed of the other’s momentum after that. RAL scored nine points in the second quarter, 10 in the third, and 12 in the fourth— the progression coming with added feel for the game. The quarterly scoring improvement is something Wallace hopes can continue through the season.

“As the season progresses, hopefully we’ll be able to spend more time shooting,” Wallace said.

Conner Wallace paced the Jacks with nine points, with Jacob Childers, Chandler Lyon and Jacob Thompson contributing five points apiece.

Both teams had rough nights from the free stripe. RAL was 13-29 from the line and Kelso was 12-18.

“We better tighten up our free-throw shooting. I think that goes without saying,” coach Kinch said. “But one of the big bright spots, I thought, was we only had seven turnovers.”

Kelso is 1-0 on the season, and while RAL is now 0-2, coaches told the players they were happy with some of the physicality they saw and their expectation is that improvement will come as long as they stay enthused.

“They’re really nervous, but as they get going, they’re going to get a feel for it,” Wallace said. “They’re going to understand, they’re going to get their confidence up.”

Coach Kinch agreed.

“It doesn’t matter who they subbed in, they played hard, they had great enthusiasm,” Kinch said. “I thought it was pretty clear what they wanted to do, and they carried it out well.”

The Jacks play at Rainier on Monday, while Kelso travels to face W.F. West on Tuesday.

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Sports Reporter

Jason is a journeyman sports reporter who has covered the Golden State Warriors, Oakland A's, along with a heavy emphasis on the Oakland Raiders. He comes to Cowlitz County from Oakland, Calif. and is a loving father.

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