Boys basketball: Evergreen holds off Battle Ground 60-59 in wild finish

By Paul Valencia, Columbian high school sports reporter



Robert Franks blocked a shot at the buzzer Monday night, and that might have only been the second-best defensive play of the final 10 seconds for the Evergreen Plainsmen.

Jalen Ballard got a steal, then sank two free throws with five seconds left that turned into the game-winning points for the Plainsmen, who held off Battle Ground 60-59 in a crucial Class 4A Greater St. Helens League boys basketball game.

The fourth quarter featured nine lead changes, an intentional foul, a technical foul, an ejection, and clutch free throws. Then it came down to one final shot for the Tigers.

Franks blocked the shot just before the buzzer, pushing Evergreen alone into second place in the 4A GSHL. The Plainsmen, 7-2, will face first-place Union (8-1) Wednesday. Battle Ground fell to 6-3.

The Tigers will be hoping for Union to beat Evergreen to force a tie for second place.

Franks led Evergreen with 17 points, 15 rebounds, and three blocked shots. Ballard scored 11 points, including five in the fourth quarter.

It was his defense that gave Evergreen a three-point advantage late in the game. Even if it was just three points temporarily.

Battle Ground had the ball with 12 seconds left after a timeout, trailing 58-57. Ballard would get a steal and head the other way. He was hammered with a hard foul, and players from both teams reacted. An Evergreen player came off the bench to assist his teammate on the ground, and he was ejected.

Ballard got up from the floor and made both free throws for a 60-57 lead with 5.3 seconds remaining.

"I don't know how," he said, still rubbing his head in the place he got hit. "Blessing."

Evergreen did not get the ball after the intentional foul, though, because of the technical foul against the Evergreen bench. Jamie Ford made both free throws for the Tigers, making it 60-59 and Battle Ground ball.

Franks, though, was there to swat away the final shot.

Ballard said he went to the fundamentals on that play that led to the chaos.

"I just got in a stance, sat down, and kept my hands up," he said. "Then I poked it loose."

Battle Ground led 43-41 at the end of the third quarter. Then it was Evergreen, then Battle Ground, then Evergreen, then Battle Ground ... for nine lead changes until Evergreen scored seven points in a row for a 58-52 lead with 1:55 to play.

The Tigers, who were led by Jamie Ford's 22 points, would get it to one at 58-57, setting up the strange final 10 seconds.


BATTLE GROUND -- Jamie Ford 22, Damien Ford 5, Devin Johnson 11, Josh Lemar 7, Colby Cahoon 8, Nate Moring 2, Taylor Smith 2, Jeff Moran 0, Keaton Hoots 2. Totals 19-50 (7-13) 14-17 59.

EVERGREEN -- Connor Finnegan 2, Jalen Ballard 11, Jahmil Johnson 6, Chris Chamberlain 6, Nate Tegarden 0, Robert Franks 17, Jordan Henderson 10, David Martin 5, Greg Washington 3, Kobey Eaton 0. Totals 19-45 (5-15) 17-20 60.

B. Ground 13 14 16 16--59

Evergreen 14 14 13 19--60