TOUTLE — The 2B District IV boys basketball tournament may not be for another few days. But with a Central 2B League title on the line, the feeling was obvious: postseason mode had come to Kalama and Toutle Lake half a week early.
“That definitely felt like a postseason game,” said Toutle Lake coach Eric Swanson. “We’re two high-caliber teams, so I’m pretty sure we’ll see them down the road pretty soon.”
As a sort of appetizer of what’s to come next week, the Ducks and Chinooks went at each other all night long, but come the final buzzer, it was the hosts wearing white and blue celebrating a 58-42 win to clinch their second consecutive C2BL crown.
The battle between the two top teams in the league featured a battle between two of the best players in the area, as Toutle Lake’s Zach Swanson and Kalama’s Jackson Esary traded buckets for 32 minutes, matching each other nearly the whole way through.
Both finished on 26 points, with Swanson adding 15 rebounds and six assists in what’s turning into one of the best matchups the C2BL has to offer.
“He’s fast, he’s strong,” Swanson said. “Next year, he’s going to be a nightmare. I’m not looking forward to seeing him down the road.”
From the opening tip, Esary was pretty much the only thing working for Kalama. He shot, drove, spun, and euro-stepped his way to 12 points in the first, but that ended up being all the scoring the visitors would manage. Come halftime, he was sitting at 17 points, and the rest of his team had just five to add on.
“There was no semblance of an offense today,” Kalama coach Wes Armstrong said. “We just kind of watched Jackson play and try to do his thing.”
For his part, Zach Swanson put up 10 points in the first quarter, punctuated by a step-back buzzerbeater from beyond the arc. He was also on 17 as the second quarter ended, but the bigger story was the gritty showing on the offensive glass Toutle Lake put together.
“In the first half, we noticed they weren’t blocking out too well,” Zach Swanson said. “So that was kind of a weakness, and that was kind of our gameplan: whenever you shoot, go follow the ball. I think that really worked for us.”
It started in the first quarter, when Swanson missed the free throw on a three-point play opportunity, but Travis Vetter ducked into the lane, grabbed the board, and put it back for two points to push Toutle Lake’s lead to nine points. In the second, Swanson pulled down an offensive rebound and fed it to Ryder Moss, who put it in for two, and a couple of minutes later, it was Swanson getting the feed off of yet another offensive board and cashing in.
The Ducks finished with 10 offensive rebounds, and converted those into 10 second-chance points on the night.
“We got clobbered on the 50-50 balls,” Armstrong said. “They had a lot of bounces go their way, but that’s because of their effort. They were working a lot harder than we were, but as a result, we got creamed.”
Toutle Lake went into halftime up by nine, and come the third quarter, the Ducks made their move on defense. For nearly the whole eight minutes, Esary couldn’t get anything going with Swanson, Taylor Lundquist, and a whole flock of Ducks harrying him the whole way. Toutle took advantage to push its lead up to as many as 14 points — again off an offensive rebound.
Esary found his shot in the fourth, but once again, Toutle Lake shut down his teammates completely. Meanwhile, the Toutle Lake offense didn’t exactly run at its smoothest, but found ways to get the ball in the basket. The Ducks ended the night on an 8-2 run, powered by four free throws by Swanson.
“Sometimes in these big games, it’s not always really pretty,” coach Swanson said. “It was a fight. In the big games, sometimes the offense takes a backseat to the defense.”
Lundquist finished with 10 points, and John Nicholson added eight points and eight rebounds — five on the offensive end.Connor Cox put up eight points and four assists, and Moss had nine boards.
Brady Burns was second in scoring for Kalama with seven points, all scored in the third quarter. Kalama as a team scored just 16 points outside of Esary, all coming in the middle 16 minutes.
Now, it’s off to the District tournament for both Toutle Lake (10-1) and Kalama (7-2). Both teams are set to host first-round matchups on Monday.