Union wraps up outright 4A title

Titans roll to 72-52 win over Evergreen for league crown

By Paul Valencia, Columbian high school sports reporter

Published:

 

Idaho just might want to change that scholarship offer from football to basketball.

Trent Cowan can hoop, too.

Cowan, who on Wednesday morning is expected to sign his letter of intent to play football for Idaho, had 19 points, nine rebounds, and four steals Tuesday night, leading the Union Titans to a 72-52 victory over Evergreen in a Class 4A Greater St. Helens League boys basketball finale.

"We didn't want to be co-league champs. That's something we weren't going to do," Cowan said.

Now, the Titans do not have to share.

Kyle Mercer added 16 points, Micah Paulson scored 12, and the Titans broke open a close game with a 30-point fourth quarter, wrapping up the league season with a 9-1 record.

Union will host the district championship game Saturday night.

Evergreen was trying to earn a co-title, but instead dropped to 7-3. Evergreen will host a district tournament semifinal on Friday.

"Our motto is 'Play to be great,' " said Cowan, who made 9 of 14 shots. "We knew if we played great, we'd get the win."

Hard to argue that Union was anything but that in the fourth quarter.

After 12 lead changes and five ties through the first three quarters, the Titans made sure there were no dramatics in the final eight minutes.

Mercer buried a 3-pointer in the opening 30 seconds, and the rout was on for Union. Cowan scored inside, then Paulson drained a 3-pointer. Later, Seaver Whalen score five consecutive points for the Titans in part of a 15-3 run to start the period.

"We got our defense really intense, which sparked our offense," Mercer said.

Union made 10 of 16 shots from the field -- including two 3-pointers -- and 8 of 9 from the line in the fourth quarter. After turning the ball over seven times in the first half, the Titans finished with 10 -- one in the fourth quarter.

Meanwhile, the Union defense forced 20 Evergreen turnovers.

"The way we play kind of wears you down," Union coach Maco Hamilton said. "That's what the fourth quarter means for us, exerting our will a little bit."

Jahmil Johnson led Evergreen with 12 points. Andrew White added eight points. Sophomore Robert Franks, stuck in foul trouble all night, finished with seven points.

Union led by one after the first quarter, but the Plainsmen took a three-point lead into halftime. The third quarter remained close, giving no indication that the margin of victory would be 20 points.

In fact, the Plainsmen have owned Union in Evergreen's gym. This was the Union seniors' first win in this place.

"This feels amazing," Mercer said. "We accomplished two goals. We beat them at their place, and won a league championship."

The Titans got it done with help from a lot of players, including a football player who knows how to play basketball, too.

UNION 72, EVERGREEN 52

UNION -- Tyler Copp 6, Trent Cowan 19, Seaver Whalen 7, Kyle Mercer 16, Micah Paulson 12, Skillful Davis 5, Isaiah Robinson 1, Derek Derryberry 0, Riley Hawken 6, Spencer Martin 0. Totals 22-52 (6-15) 22-20 72.

EVERGREEN -- Donneze Braxton 5, Jalen Ballard 6, Jahmil Johnson 12, Andre Johnson 0, Robert Franks 7, Trent Foster 6, Connor Finnegan 6, David Shirts 0, Chris Chamberlain 2, Andrew White 8. Totals 20-45 (6-17) 6-14 52.

Union 17 12 13 30--72

Evergreen 16 16 10 10--52

JV -- Union won. C -- Union won.