Wednesday, February 1, 2023
Feb. 1, 2023

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Union boys don’t get desired rematch with Federal Way (video)

Titans fall to Gonzaga Prep, will face Lewis & Clark in consolation round

By , Columbian High School Sports Reporter

TACOMA — The Union boys basketball team wanted a rematch with Federal Way.

The Titans wanted a second consecutive trip to the Class 4A state semifinals.

Instead, they are headed to the consolation round for another kind of rematch.

Gonzaga Prep of Spokane forced 12 first-half turnovers, outscored the Titans big in the second quarter, and held off a Union rally down the stretch for a 62-52 victory Thursday in the quarterfinals at the Tacoma Dome.

Anton Watson, a freshman who suffered a cut above his right eye in the first minute of the game, returned and scored Gonzaga Prep’s final nine points of the game, crushing Union’s momentum.

The Titans, who trailed by 16 in the third quarter, had cut the deficit to four points twice in the fourth quarter.

Denis Kirichenko scored 19 points, including 11 in the second half, leading Union’s rally. He was the only Titan in double figures.

“All it is is we turned it over and they hit shots,” Kirichenko said. “We prepared for them well, but we were frantic with the ball. We were deer-in-headlights, really.”

Cameron Cranston scored eight points.

“We got ourselves in too big of a hole in the first half,” Cranston said. “Against a good team like that, just can’t happen. In the state tournament you can’t have 12 turnovers in one half.”

Still, he was proud of the effort in the second half.

“It’s the Union way,” Cranston said. “Come back. Never give up. Always grinding. Brothers don’t give up on each other.”

Union coach Blake Conley said the second quarter was crucial, with the Bullpups scoring 27 points, capitalizing on turnovers with layups the other way.

“I think we were a little nervous,” Conley said. “We made some uncharacteristic mistakes.

“But I was proud of the heart they showed. Not surprised.”

Kirichenko finished 6 of 10 from the floor, including 3 for 3 from 3-point range, to go along with a team-high nine rebounds for the Titans. Even in defeat, he could feel good about playing so well in the dome, the place to be for 4A and 3A basketball teams every March.

“To put up big numbers for my team … every kid dreams of something like that,” Kirichenko said. “I’m really living out my dreams right now.”

Logan Adams led a balanced attack for Gonzaga Prep. He made three of his team’s nine 3-pointers and scored 13 points. Devin Culp added nine points.

Watson scored all nine of his points when it mattered most. Up five, he made it a seven-point game with four minutes to play. After a Kirichenko basket, Watson scored on a dunk — again a seven-point Gonzaga Prep lead.

After a Union free throw, Watson scored and was fouled. His three-point play made it 60-51 with 2:58 to play.

Still time for Union, but the Titans offense went cold from there, missing its next six shots.

Watson capped the Gonzaga Prep scoring with a couple free throws in the final minute.

Union will take on Lewis and Clark — a team that beat the Titans in Spokane in early December — in the consolation semifinals at 2 p.m. Friday.

The Titans, the Class 4A Greater St. Helens League and district champions, reached the semifinals last year, falling to Federal Way by three points. Federal Way won earlier Thursday and awaited the winner of the Gonzaga Prep-Union game.


UNION — Keithan Shepard 5, Brennan Paulson 0, Zach Reznick 5, Tyler Combs 5, Carson Brucher 0, Nico Bricker 5, Austin Lewis 0, Christian Agarp 0, Kai Gamble 4, Cameron Cranston 8, Justin Ongley 1, Denis Kirichenko 19. Totals 14 (7) 17-23 52.

GONZAGA PREP — Sam Lockett 7, Quinn Sestero 0, Devin Culp 10, Brandon Bieber 5, Logan Adams 13, Bryan Cooper 3, Kea Vargas 9, Anton Watson 9, Shane Eugenio 4, Braden Morse 2, Johnny Love 0. Totals 23 (9) 7-12 62.

Union 12 12 14 14–52

GPrep 11 27 10 14–62

Columbian High School Sports Reporter