CAMAS — The Union boys basketball team knew it was going to happen, expected the challenge, and then the Titans conquered.
The Camas Papermakers are a lot better than the first time these two teams played each other, but it’s still Union with the big lead in the Class 4A Greater St. Helens League boys basketball standings.
Cameron Cranston scored 19 points, including 10 in a row for Union in the fourth quarter, and the Titans held off Camas 58-54 to improve to 8-0 in league play. Union (14-2 overall) is three games ahead of second-place Camas (8-8, 5-3 GSHL) with four to play.
“It’s great to be in this position, but we have to play each game,” Cranston said. “Respect everyone. Fear no one. Try to win them all.”
This was the strongest challenge to date in league play for the Titans.
“It’s tough to beat these guys in their house. They bring it at their place,” Cranston said. “But we do what we do and get it done. They’re a very good shooting team, and you can’t overlook them at all.”
Union beat Camas by 21 this first time through the schedule. This one went down to the wire.
Ethan Unger’s 3-pointer with 45 seconds to play pulled Camas to within a point at 54-53.
The Titans responded with a coach’s dream of a possession: They took their time, and got a lay-up just before the shot clock expired. Tyler Combs got the finish for a 56-53 lead with 10 seconds to play.
Union fouled Camas in the backcourt, stopping the Papermakers from attempting a tying 3-pointer. Jake Hansel made the first free throw with 6 seconds to play, then intentionally missed the second one in hopes of an offensive rebound.
Instead, Union got the board, and Nico Bricker made two free throws for the final margin.
“We knew they were going to be better,” Union coach Blake Conley said of the Papermakers. “(Coach) Skyler (Gillispie) does a great job. They compete. They don’t give up. They’re a very dangerous team. They just fight.”
Union led by 12 after the first quarter and 10 at halftime, but it was a two-point game early in the fourth quarter.
Cranston time. He took over, scoring the next 10 for the Titans, keeping Union in the lead at 51-46 with three minutes to play.
“I was feeling it. It was great to have my teammates feeding me, to know I was on a little streak,” Cranston said.
Still, the Papermakers were trying to match Cranston’s output. They outscored the Titans after that rough first quarter, too.
“It was big for our guys to have success for a majority of the game,” Gillispie said. “I’m proud of the way we battled.”
Tanner Fogle and Alex Glikbarg hit back-to-back 3-pointers to keep Camas in it. Unger led the scoring for Camas with 14 points. Jake Hansel added 11.
The Papermakers also were sharing the ball, with 10 second-half assists after recording three in the first half.
“It’s like boxing,” Cranston said. “You take a couple hits, you give a few. Luckily, we came out with a couple more punches.”
The Titans impressed their coach.
“I was really proud of how they responded,” Conley said. “You could feel the momentum (for Camas). But we persevered and made the plays when we had to make them.
“Both teams just fought and fought. That was a great high school basketball game.”
UNION 58, CAMAS 54
UNION — Keithen Shepard 9, Brennan Paulson 3, Zach Reznick 7, Tyler Combs 4, Nico Bricker 12, Austin Lewis 0, Kai Gamble 0, Cameron Cranston 19, Denis Kirichenko 4. Totals 21 (6) 10-15 58.
CAMAS — Jake Hansel 11, Tanner Fogle 6, Ethan Unger 14, Cooper McNatt 2, Alex Glikbarg 6, Brock Fielding 5, Matt Murphy 2, Bryan Nguyen 8. Totals 21 (8) 4-8 54.
Union 23 9 9 17–58
Camas 11 11 15 17–54