The Columbia River boys basketball team believed in Torey Jones as a player before Torey Jones believed.
That faith helped the Chieftains open the Class 3A Greater St. Helens League boys basketball campaign with a victory Tuesday night.
Isaiah Smith was his usual self, scoring 27 points on 12-of-18 shooting, and Rian Bassett had his touch from long range for the Chieftains. But just as important, Jones had his biggest night on varsity with 13 points, key rebounds, and a clutch performance in the fourth quarter of a 62-54 win over Mountain View.
"This time last year, I didn't even think I'd be here," Jones said. "I just figure my hard work paid off. It's just good we won. It doesn't matter how I play. Just if the team wins or not."
There will be nights, though, when River needs other players than its big three -- Smith, Bassett, and Devin Bolds -- to shoulder the load.
This was Jones' night.
"He just doesn't have a lot of self-confidence," Columbia River coach David Long said. "He doesn't see himself as a high-quality varsity player yet. We always knew he was going to be."
Jones got a big offensive rebound with three minutes to play, then later was rewarded on the extra possession with a pass inside that he converted into a score for a 52-43 lead.
Then, after the Thunder cut the lead to four in the final minute, it was Jones who converted a three-point play to put away the game with 21 seconds left. He finished 5 of 8 from the floor, and had seven of his 13 points in the final period.
While Jones' play helped the Chieftains hold on for the win, it was Bassett who got River the early lead with 12 of his 16 points in the first half. He was 4 for 6 from 3-point range in the first two quarters.
Columbia River held Mountain View scoreless for more than six minutes -- the final two minutes of the first half and the first four of the second half -- pushing a one-point lead to 13.
"We all prepared, and we knew what to expect from them, and then we performed," Bassett said.
Bolds was held to two points, but he had 10 assists and seven rebounds from his guard position.
These two teams battled last season in league and then again in the district tournament -- with River getting both titles.
"We really wanted this game. Everyone knows they want to beat us and they have to go through us," Bassett said. "It was good to show the league we're still here and we're not going. It was kind of a statement game."
If that is the case, Mountain View also made a statement. The Thunder struggled with shooting for much of the night but refused to give in, even after that tough stretch midway through the game.
"I thought the difference was those last couple of minutes of the second quarter and the first couple minutes of the third," Mountain View coach Nate DuChesne said. "We gave too good of a team too many buckets. It was too big of a deficit to come back from."
Yet the Thunder did get back in the contest.
Luke DuChesne scored 16 of his 21 points in the second half. His 3-pointer at the five-minute mark of the fourth quarter brought Mountain View within two at 43-41.
Smith responded with a three-point play for River, then Taylor Drey, who scored 20 points for Mountain View, followed with a score to make it 46-43.
Once again, River went to Smith. Jones would later add two free throws to go up 50-43, which he followed on the next trip down the floor with his key offensive rebound and subsequent score.
Mountain View cut it to four with 30 seconds to play and again with 14 seconds, but never had the ball in a one-possession situation down the stretch.
"They're a very good team, and we didn't play consistent enough to win a game like that," Nate DuChesne said.
Round one in this 3A GSHL battle went to Columbia River. With some names you know, and another who stepped up his game.
COLUMBIA RIVER 62, MOUNTAIN VIEW 54
MOUNTAIN VIEW — Shane McCauley 2, Luke DuChesne 21, Taylor Drey 20, Akash Sanghera 6, Alex Torson 2, Nolan Biggs 0, Patrick Woodson 3, Dauntae Williams 0. Totals 19-53 (10-26) 6-8 54.
COLUMBIA RIVER — Devin Bolds 2, Bryan Wyche 4, Torey Jones 13, Rian Bassett 16, Chandler Holt 0, Isaiah Smith 27. Totals 24-53 (5-23) 9-14 62.
Mtn. View 13 10 10 21—54
Col. River 12 17 12 21—62