Union boys strike first in showdown vs. Evergreen

Titans work their game plan perfectly in key league victory

By Paul Valencia, Columbian high school sports reporter

Published:

 

Check. Check. Check.

The Union Titans had a game plan Thursday night to stop the Evergreen Plainsmen, and they pretty much were able to check off everything on their list.

With a true shooting touch and a dominating defense, Union overpowered Evergreen 71-49 in a Class 4A Greater St. Helens League boys basketball game.

Jordan Chatman had 24 points, five assists, and three steals, Tyler Copp had four 3-pointers and 16 points, and Tanner Nelson excelled in the most action he has seen since returning from a football injury.

The Titans (4-1, 2-0 GSHL) avenged three losses to the Plainsmen last season and will now go into a break from league play alone in first place.

“It was cool, especially after last year,” Chatman said. “It’s good to know we can beat a good team like that.”

“We wanted a little redemption from last year,” Copp added. “We wanted to prove to ourselves we could play with the best.”

Evergreen (7-1, 2-1) came into the game ranked second in the state by the Seattle Times. Union was a “team to watch.”

Thursday, those who watched the Titans left Union High School impressed.

“Defensively, they brought it and we didn’t,” Evergreen coach Kelly Blankenship said. “That was the difference.”

As the score suggests, this was a start-to-finish rout. The Titans scored the first eight points. Copp connected on two 3-pointers and Chatman added another in the first quarter.

The Titans then managed a 13-0 run from the end of the period into the start of the second quarter. Chatman’s second 3-pointer of the night pushed Union to a 29-12 advantage.

“Sometimes we’ve been starting out a little slow,” Chatman explained. “We wanted to get a great start tonight, make sure we had a comfortable lead so we wouldn’t have to battle back and forth with them throughout the game.”

All of it started with a swarming defense. Copp finished with a team-high four steals. The Titans also capitalized, taking care of the ball — three first-half turnovers would be just fine with any coach — and scoring on the other end. Union finished 27 of 52, 52 percent from the floor.

“Our press was working pretty good and everybody was on the same page,” Copp said.

Evergreen failed to get anything going on offense. The Titans played in-your-face defense against the Evergreen guards, trying to make sure they would not get the ball to 6-foot-11 post Caleb Dressler. On the few times Dressler got the ball, the Titans collapsed two, sometimes three, defenders around him. Dressler was held to four shots from the field and five points for the night.

“He was the focal point of what we were doing defensively,” Union coach Maco Hamilton said. “He’s a great player. We wanted to limit him the best we could, and the kids did a great job.”

Evergreen never adapted and shot 27 percent (12 of 44) from the floor.

“We have a lot to fix,” Blankenship said. “We’re going to fix it, and we’re going to be OK.”

Ajay Jenkins led Evergreen with 11 points. Jalen Ballard ended up with nine points, three assists. Dressler had nine rebounds and two blocked shots.

Nelson, who injured a knee in the state quarterfinal football game, came off the bench to score 11 for the Titans. He also had three assists.

By the end of the night, Union had taken this first battle of the campaign. They will be in first place when league play resumes in January. The Titans celebrated, but they also understand it is December.

“There is so much time left,” Hamilton said. “This is good, but it’s a long season.”

UNION 71, EVERGREEN 49

EVERGREEN — Jared Price 0, Jalen Ballard 9, Ajay Jenkins 11, David Shirts 4, Jahmil Johnson 6, Zach Smith 0, Tre Clark 4, Austin Gurnsey 6, Andrew White 0, Caleb Dressler 5, Thomas Phillips 4. Totals 12-44 (3-15) 22-33 49.

UNION — Dionte Ceaser 2, Kyle Mercer 8, Tyler Copp 16, Dominique Ceaser 2, Seaver Whalen 0, Tanner Nelson 11, Jordan Chatman 24, Trent Cowan 6, Kaben Humphrey-Butler 2, Gabe Rego 0, Micah Merfeld 0. Totals 27-52 (7-14) 10-16 71.

Evergreen 9 10 13 17—49

Prairie 15 21 21 14—71