Two heated rivals, a packed gymnasium and a pair of referees plenty willing to swallow the whistle in favor of the flow of the game meant the first of three meetings between Rainier and Clatskanie’s boys’ basketball teams was always destined for fireworks.
Clatskanie senior Devon Jones provided the grand finale, the final boom, the one that sent the hometown fans back to their cars with childlike smiles.
Jones, who stands 5-foot-10 and averages less than six points per game, was just 1 of 3 from the field when he got the ball with 6.9 seconds left and a 47-47 scoreboard. Five seconds later, he stepped past a Rainier defender, switched the ball to his right hand and lofted an awkward shot. As soon as it left his hands, he claims, he knew it was going in. It sure didn’t look like it as it paused on the edge of the rim, before falling through the twine.
The buzzer sounded, and Clatskanie was the 49-47 victor and 4-0 through the first third of the Coastal Range 3A League season.
“It wasn’t really planned that way,” Jones said. “But I got a screen, went to the hole and had the big man on me, so I knew I could get it up.”
Jones’ shot was only precluded by a brotherly performance that will go down as Clatksanie legend. Dawson and Foster Evenson scored 28 of the game’s final 35 points, including 12 straight once the Tigers took a third-quarter lead — their first of the night.
Dawson finished with 18 points, Foster with 10, and the two, who average just more than 9 points per game, refused to be denied inside. After Andre Combs gave the Tigers their first lead — 29-27 — with 4:05 left in the third, Dawson scored eight straight points to keep Clatskanie up 37-32 early in the fourth.
“Fun, man,” coach Deshaun Combs said of his first Highway 30 Hootenanny as coach. “It was exciting, the energy. It was fun; it was just fun.”
Dawson picked up his fourth foul, though, and had to take a seat. He called on his coach to put him back in. Coach Combs told him to be patient. It eased some of the worry that his brother scored back to buckets to keep the lead at 41-36 while Dawson took a breather.
“It’s awesome. I love seeing my brother go out there and just score,” Dawson said. “He came in when I got four fouls, he was able to come in and do just as good a job as I was, if not better.”
But Rainier didn’t lay down. Conner Rea hit a 3-pointer to cut the deficit to 41-39, and Kenney Tripp equalized on a fastbreak lay-in with 2:40 to go. Dawson’s return to the court precluded two straight drives to the basket and a 45-42 lead with 1 minute remaining.
The teams exchanged free throws before Kenney Tripp forced a turnover on an inbounds play with 24 seconds to go. Joey Tripp followed it up with a spin move that tied the game at 47-47 with 6.9 seconds.
“There’s not a player on either team that has anywhere near the accolades he has. He’s done it all,” Rainier coach Logan Nelson said of the three-sport star. “He’s going to go at it no matter what, and it worked out.”
Then Jones entered stage right, and the rest is history.
Rea finished with 15 points, Joey Tripp had 12 points, nine rebounds and four steals, and Devion Godfrey tallied 11 points and seven rebounds.
Clatskanie girls benefit from second ballhandler
Clatskanie sophomore guard Olivia Sprague is the area’s leading scorer with more than 24 points per game. After averaging 17 points in a stellar freshman campaign, Sprague is reaping the rewards of an offseason in the gym and a new face in the starting lineup.
Freshman Cloee McLeod showed in Tuesday night’s 66-32 win over Rainier why the Tigers — and Sprague — are even better than during last year’s stellar state run.
McLeod finished with 10 points and four assists, but more importantly, provided error-free ballhandling at the point. As it has done all season, the strategy allowed Sprague to work off the ball to get free for open shots. Sprague shot 11 of 19 from the field, including 5-10 from 3-point land, to score 28 points. She also added seven assists.
“It’s nice to know we have two ballhandlers on the court,” Sprague said. “We’re able to keep the game controlled and focused.”
McLeod added: “It makes it really easy having Sprague by my side.”
Shelby Blodgett kicked in 21 points, 10 rebounds, six assists and seven steals to help the Tigers run to the big Coastal Range 3A League win. Clatskanie is ranked No. 1 and is 4-0 through the first third of league play.
It has the Tigers dreaming big this season, and they proved Tuesday they have the depth to do so.
“It’s more about the journey than the destination right now, though,” Clatskanie coach John Blodgett said. “We’re just trying to get better each game.”
Rainier was paced by Reese Schimmel’s nine points and three steals. Gracie Crape added eight points, and Hannah Farrell had four steals.