NAPAVINE — After 19 and half games the Tigers were able to put together one of their most complete efforts of the season here on Thursday just in time to force a three-way tie for the final spot to the District IV tournament.
In a game that featured five ties and five lead changes, Napavine was able to distance themselves from Toledo down the stretch with some clutch shooting and a bulk quantity of rebounds in order to claim a 56-48 victory in their Central 2B League boys basketball matchup.
“I just told them to finish the game. We’ve been snake bit this year where we’ve played everyone tough, but just had these four minute stretches where we fall behind and can’t overcome it,” Napavine coach Rex Stanley said. ”Tonight was nice because we were able to finish.”
The back-and-forth portion of the game took place primarily in the first 16 minutes as both teams employed a frenetic pace coupled with sometimes-questionable decision making. Just before halftime, though, the home team seemed to find their comfort zone and started to work over Toledo in a more methodical fashion.
“They are really good with their press so all of our last practices have been working on our press break just to make sure we got that right,” explained Napavine’s elder statesman, Caleb Perz-Stewart. “We were really pumped up. We know that our past games have been a little bit tough for us but knowing that we still had a chance to get to districts we were really pumped up trying to get ourselves there.”
After erasing a pair of early Toledo leads Napavine was able to take a three-point edge into the intermission and then went right back to work extending that advantage to start the third quarter.
The game plan, as usual, included plenty of touches in the post for Keith Olson, as well as an assortment of midrange and lane-crashing looks for Cade Evander.
That tactic was augmented by the outside shooting of Perz-Stewart as the Tigers scratched out an 11-point lead over the first four-plus minutes of the third frame.
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“Obviously our identity is to throw it inside, but we were able to compliment that tonight by hitting some outside shots. Caleb Perz on senior night, our only senior, he was huge tonight,” Stanley said.
Perz-Stewart finished the game with 15 points, five rebounds, three blocks and two steals. Olson added 17 points and 10 rebounds while Evander notched 10 points and 15 rebounds.
The win will extend Napavine’s season for at least another day as they prepare for a pigtail playoff that will begin on Friday. After a tough luck regular season that included a double overtime loss at home to Morton-White Pass in January, the Tigers lone senior was breathing a momentary sigh of relief after Thursday’s win.
“It means a lot. We’ve been looking for this all year just trying to make the playoffs by going the best we can and as hard as we can,” Perz-Stewart said. “A lot of us really looked back and thought ‘What if we’d done this or that?’ But now we’ve flushed it because we know we’ve still got a chance. It’s basically 0-0 for everyone because we’re basically in the playoffs now.”
Meanwhile, Toledo was unable to muster a sustained charge in the second half. An active Napavine defense can take part of the credit, and a rough shooting night did the rest, as the visitors knocked down just 33 percent of their shots from the field and only 50 percent of their free throws.
Duke Schaplow led Toledo with 17 points on 6 of 11 shooting. Miguel Soto added eight points and a team-high seven rebounds, while Carlo Arceo-Hansen chipped in six rebounds, four steals, two blocks and two points. Freshman center Jaxon Cook tallied six points, four blocks and four rebounds in the loss.
Out in Toutle on Thursday, the Ducks were able to fend off Kalama 62-43 as they put the finishing touches on their C2BL title. The Kalama loss coupled with the Napavine win leaves the Chinooks and Tigers tied with Toledo for the eighth and final spot to the district tournament.
Kalama won a coin toss during the perfunctory tiebreaker protocol in order to earn a partial bye. That means Toledo and Napavine will face off again on Friday at 7 p.m. at Toutle in order to determine who moves on to play the Chinooks at 7 p.m. on Saturday in Toutle to determine the final C2BL playoff berth.
“We knew what position we were in yesterday and we talked about it. I told them ‘You can’t win three in a row until you win one in a row,” Stanley said. “We got this one and now tomorrow we’ve got to go prove it.”