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Kelso’s motto this season has been to punch first. On Wednesday, the Hilanders got the first strike, and had a little left in the tank to keep swinging at the end.

Led by Shaw Anderson’s game-high 33 points, the Hilanders turned away Wilson of Tacoma 66-57 in a West-Central/Southwest 3A Bi-District boys’ basketball game in Kelso.

The Hilanders (19-2) have qualified for state, and will face Lincoln in a bi-district semifinal game at 6 Thursday in Puyallup. Lincoln beat Mountain View 87-65, also on Wednesday.

“I took our motto a little more to heart considering it was the last game I’d ever play here,” Anderson said. “They’re a good team which made adjustments early, so we had to make our own.”

With no one of any size to guard him on the Wilson roster, Anderson scored 16 of the Hilanders’ initial 20 points on a variety of layups and putbacks. It got more difficult for Anderson, as the Rams started double-teaming him after the first quarter.

“We’ve dealt with double-teams all season, but this was more on the catch which was different,” he said. “It took us more than a quarter to get used to it, and when we did we had really good player and ball movement.”

With starting point guard and second-leading scorer Damani Green (12.8 points per game) out with an injury, the Rams struggled with Kelso’s 2-3 zone defense which left them to put up numerous long-range shots. They made 5-15 attempts and trailed 20-12 after one quarter.

Trailing 34-25 at halftime, Wilson came out of the locker room on fire with an array of mid-range jump shots and defense-slicing layups which left Kelso clawing onto a 49-47 advantage entering the final eight minutes.

“Wilson is a really good team, and they made good adjustments as to running their offense,” Kelso coach Joe Kinch said. “They hit some shots and caught us a little flat-footed. We got off to a great start, but they were really good in the third quarter.”

Entering the fourth quarter, Kinch switched the Hilanders’ defense from the zone to man-to-man, which caught the Rams off-guard.

“Our guys did a good job keeping them out of the paint,” he said. “We had seven stops in a row, and that made the difference. Shaw made some great plays with a couple blocked shots, (Josh Webb) grabbed a big rebound, we got to a loose ball, and Jayden (Hardeman) had a rebound and run out for a layup.”

During the Rams’ cold streak, Kelso countered with eight unanswered points to build a 62-55 advantage with 2:13 left. Free throws from Riley Noah and Wyatt Brown provided the Hilanders with the final margin of victory.

Webb finished with nine points, and Noah added eight.

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Sports Reporter

Rick is a 29-year veteran of The Daily News, and the lead Lower Columbia College athletics reporter. In addition, he tracks former area prep athletes and assists several other beats. He is a Mark Morris grad with a business management degree from LCC.

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