Third-quarter surge propels Union boys over Evergreen

Titans take down Evergreen to create tie for first in 4A GSHL

By Paul Valencia, Columbian high school sports reporter

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Seaver Whalen went on the attack as soon as the second half started Friday night. It led to two free throws for the Union Titans.

No one could possibly know at that time that it would lead to so much more in Union's Class 4A Greater St. Helens League boys basketball game against the first-place Evergreen Plainsmen.

Kyle Mercer would follow with a score.

Then Tyler Copp scored nine in a row for the Titans.

Mercer got in the act again.

Then it was time for Skillful Davis Jr. to show his skills with the next four points.

In five minutes of action, Union erased a four-point halftime deficit and was up by 15 points.

The near-perfect third quarter for Union led the Titans to a 63-55 victory over Evergreen, tying the Plainsmen atop the league standings.

Copp finished with 33 points, connecting on 13 of his 19 shots from the floor. Mercer ended up with nine points, Davis had eight, and the Titans responded after losing their first league game of the campaign earlier in the week.

"There was a minute left in the quarter, and I looked up and noticed we had 24 points (in the period)," Copp said. "We were clicking on offense."

Defense, too.

"We just picked up our tempo and played a lot better defense," Davis said. "We started executing our offense and getting to the rack."

In all, it was a 26-8 third quarter. Evergreen's lone field goal came when Andrew White hit an off-balance 3-pointer to beat the horn.

"We knew it was a huge game for them," Copp said. "If they could go through the first round of league 5-0, that would have been a statement for them."

It turned out to be a big game for the Titans, too, after they lost to Skyview.

"We kind of put things in perspective," Copp said. "We can't overlook any opponent. This league has great coaches and fundamental players."

For a half, it looked like Evergreen just might get to 5-0 in the 4A GSHL.

The Plainsmen had an 11-0 run of their own to go up 24-17 with 3:15 left in the second quarter.

However, Evergreen would go more than 8 minutes without scoring again, getting a point in the second half on a free throw to make it 39-25 Union. The Titans would score the next five points for a 24-1 spurt.

"The way our system is set up, the decision making is in the hands of the players," Union coach Maco Hamilton said. "We've been in a little bit of a rut offensively."

At the half, Hamilton reminded his players of the system.

"They have to go out there and be confident and believe in themselves and make the right decisions," Hamilton said. "If we do that, we're tough to beat. For a game and a half, we kind of got away from that."

It came back -- big time -- in that third quarter.

Evergreen did get back in the game in the fourth quarter. A free throw from Robert Franks, who led Evergreen with 18 points, made it 48-42 with 5:20 left to play. Union, though, scored the next four points and the Plainsmen could only get within six again with 25 seconds remaining.

Franks, a 6-foot-6 sophomore, made 6 of 9 from the floor, including three from 3-point range, for his 18 points. He also had nine rebounds. White finished with 15 points, and Jahmil Johnson scored 13.

"They're talented," Hamilton said. "Robert Franks is a high-level Division I kid. He's going to be heavily recruited. They make it tough on you. They're a good team."

Copp scored 18 of his team's 20 points in the first half. He was 8 of 13 at the time, while the rest of the Titans were 1 of 15. His scoring in the first half kept his team in it, and when all the Titans found their game, well, it was a dominating third quarter.

And a Union victory.

UNION 63, EVERGREEN 55

EVERGREEN -- Robert Franks 18, Andrew White 15, Jahmil Johnson 13, Jalen Ballard 4, Connor Finnegan 4, David Shirts 1, Andrew Morris 0, Christian Chamberlain 0. Totals 18-49 (9-23) 10-21 55.

UNION -- Tyler Copp 33, Kyle Mercer 9, Skillful Davis Jr. 8, Jeff Wu 5, Seaver Whalen 4, Trent Cowan 2, Riley Hawken 2, Micah Paulson 0, Isaiah Robinson 0, Derek Derryberry 0, Spencer Martin 0. Totals 23-56 (3-17) 14-17 63.

Evergreen 11 13 8 23--55

Union 13 7 26 17--63

JV -- Union 64-60 (OT); C -- Union 71-52