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Cranston in the clutch: Late 3-pointer lifts Union boys (video)

Junior's winning shot sends Titans past Bellarmine Prep

By , Columbian High School Sports Reporter
2 Photos
Union fans rush the court after a last-second shot helped the team win against Bellarmine on Friday night, Feb. 26, 2016 at Battle Ground High School.
Union fans rush the court after a last-second shot helped the team win against Bellarmine on Friday night, Feb. 26, 2016 at Battle Ground High School. (Amanda Cowan/The Columbian) Photo Gallery

BATTLE GROUND — Cameron. Cranston. Clutch.

The shot was true.

The crowd went crazy.

A pile of players.

One said he couldn’t breathe, but it was the best feeling of his life.

And the guy who made the shot, well, talk about redemption.

This is what a game-winner feels like with everything on the line.

“After last year, that meant everything,” Cranston said. “All the hard work I put in to make a shot like that. It just feels amazing. Can’t get better than that.”

Cranston’s 3-pointer beat the horn Friday night, lifting Union to the Tacoma Dome for the Class 4A Hardwood Classic.

The Titans, who let a 15-point fourth-quarter lead slip away, got the last shot and came up big in a 60-57 victory over Bellarmine Prep of Tacoma in a state regional round boys basketball elimination game.

The Titans will return to the dome, where they lost in the semifinals last year … with Cranston’s final shot to tie just missing its mark.

Not this year.

“It felt good. It came off my finger right,” said Cranston, who scored 25 points. “Maybe a little bit to the left, but it went in.”

And the party began.

“That might have been the most exciting game I’ve ever been a part of,” said Denis Kirichenko, who had 20 points and 16 rebounds for the Titans.

He was on the team last year when the Titans just missed in the semifinals but also rallied from a double-digit deficit in the regional round just to make the dome.

“Last year … was insane,” Kirichenko said. “This game, I don’t even know what to say.”

The Titans are used to the pressure.

This one, they put the pressure on themselves. Union led 55-40 with 4:46 to play, then turned the ball over on its next four possessions. Bellarmine Prep saw an opening, and took it. Malachi Flynn scored 13 of his game-high 28 points in the fourth quarter, including a 3-pointer to tie the game with 30 seconds to play.

“Honestly, I wasn’t worried a bit,” Kirichenko said. “We knew they could come back. We were ready for that.”

“We got the ball to Cam, and he went off.”

Kirichenko, who was the one who said he couldn’t breathe in the pile of humanity, was the one who passed it to Cranston.

“I got it. I had enough space. I shot it,” Cranston said.

Ball game.

Union coach Blake Conley did not want extra minutes.

“With the momentum, overtime would have been … it was a good thing we got it done in regulation,” Conley said.

Union was aggressive inside all night and had a huge advantage at the free throw line, attempting the first 21 of the game. The Titans extended a three-point halftime lead to 11 at the end of the third quarter.

The Lions, though, refused to give up, going on a 17-2 run to tie the game at 57-all.

That set up the wild final seconds, sending Union back to Tacoma.

The Titans surely will reevaluate their goal, now that they are among the final eight teams in the state.

“It feels so good to get back to the dome,” Cranston said. “That was our goal all year long, to get back to the dome. Feels amazing.”

“I’m just so happy for the guys. They wanted to go so bad,” Conley said. “So happy we get another week together.”


BELLARMINE PREP — Joey Bodoia 5, Isaac Wojtanowicz 14, Christian Moore 5, Malachi Flynn 28, Peter Gray 0, Ahmad Lewis 0, Charles Elzie 5, Cole Price 0. Totals 21 (11) 4-7 57.

UNION — Keithen Shepard 6, Brenna Paulson 3, Zach Reznick 0, Tyler Combs 3, Nico Bricker 1, Austin Lewis 0, Christian Agarpo 2, Kai Gamble 0, Cameron Cranston 25, Denis Kirichenko 20. Totals 17 (5) 21-28 60.

Bell P. 8 15 13 21–57

Union 14 12 21 13–60

Columbian High School Sports Reporter