Battle Ground, WA Call it an early statement from the Union boys basketball team.
Actually, second that.
With a high-intensity performance on Tuesday, the Titans scored their second impressive win of the young Class 4A Greater St. Helens League season, a 71-40 thumping of Battle Ground.
Fueled by their swarming defense, the Titans took control with an 11-0 spurt to close the first quarter. Union pulled away from there, converting 18 layups to cruise past the host Tigers.
The Titans (3-0 in league) now own impressive wins over Evergreen and Battle Ground, two teams that are expected to contend for the league title.
On Tuesday, it was a cae of Union’s intensity on defense putting Battle Ground on its heels early.
Three Union players scored in double figures, led by 16 points from Jordan Chatman. But it was really all about defense for the visitors.
The score was tied at 10-10 five minutes into the game. Union then scored five of its layups to close the quarter on an 11-0 run that essentially decided the outcome.
“It was getting stops and steals and continuing to run and make them play at our pace,” Union guard Tyler Copp said.
Even with a lead that grew to 19 points by halftime, Union didn’t let up on defense.
“Holding them to 40 points was a great thing for us,” Tanner Nelson said. “When we play good defense it leads to better offense for us.”
Nelson, who is rounding into shape after missing some early-season games to rehab a football knee injury, had 14 points and was part of a defensive effort that had the Tigers frustrated.
Jake Belford led Battle Ground with 12 points, and Serg Ovchinnikov added 10, But Ovchinnikov was held to just two points in the first half.
Battle Ground coach Andy Schoonover said Union is a difficult team to prepare for.
“They play hard, they get after it, they’re energetic and they play their tails off,” Battle Ground coach Andy Schoonover said.
“They play the way I want our guys to play, which is probably the biggest compliment I can give their program. They certainly took it to us tonight.”
Union coach Maco Hamilton said he is surprised by the margin of victory his team achieved on Tuesday, and over Evergreen. But he knows it will be difficult to replicate in two future meetings with the Tigers and the Plainsmen.
“Those are two really, really good teams. I don’t think there’s much differenmce between the three (teams),” Hamilton said. “Our kids did a good job tonight of buying into our game plan and just competing.”
As impressive as Tuesday’s win was, Union players asaid everything a well-drilled team is expected to say so early in the season.
“It definitely makes us understand what we’re capable of,” Nelson said of this win and the earlier win over Evergreen. “But, in the long run, we’ve stil got to improve on stuff every week. We can learn from this game and keep getting better.”
UNION 71, BATTLE GROUND 40
UNION — Dionte Ceaser 3, Kyle Mercer 4, Tyler Copp 12, Dominique Ceaser 0, Seaver Whalen 0, Tanner Nelson 14, Jordan Chatman 16, Trent Cowan 3, Kaben Humphrey-Butler 2, Gabe Rego 2, Micah Merfeld 6, Brian Cairns 9. Totals 26 (3) 16-24 71.
BATTLE GROUND — Jamie Ford 9, Damien Ford 0, Jordan Olsen 1, Serg Ovchinnikov 10, Trevor Ingram 4, Tim Shkarovskiy 2, Miles Luke 0, Jake Belford 12 , Jake Blackman , Kaleb McGary 2. Totals 14 (4) 8-17 40.
Union 21 15 14 21—71
Battle Ground 10 7 16 7—40