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Thursday, September 21, 2023
Sept. 21, 2023

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Hot shooting propels Union boys past Sumner in bi-district opener

Titans hit 15 3-pointers in rout of 4A SPSL opponent

By , Columbian Staff Writer

As Union’s reserves dribbled the clock out in the game’s final seconds, an official crew turned to Union coach Blake Conley, whistle at his side.

How are we going to manage this snow? He asked the coach, his voice loud enough to hear above the echoes of the end-game cheers.

“It’s a mess,” Conley responded. Seconds later, the buzzer sounded.

With an impending snow storm forecasted over the weekend and potentially into next week, which has postponed bi-district basketball games Friday and Saturday, the Titans made the biggest play they could to salvage control on Thursday night: win.

Union (21-0), the top-ranked team in the state, hit 15 3-pointers — including its first five shots of the game — to beat 4A South Puget Sound League’s Sumner 75-52.

Ethan Smith scored 23 points, Tanner Toolson had 19 and Brad lackey added 11 — of which came in the fourth quarter — to lead the Titans.

Smith, who was recently named co-4A Greater St. Helens League MVP, entered the game shooting 52 percent from 3-point range. He hit three of the team’s first five 3-pointers and finished with five total.

The Titans’ first eight shots were from behind the arc and they hit five of them. That was no accident. Conley told the team before the game to take any open look from 3 early on. Especially Smith, who hit the team’s first two.

“If he’s open, we have to shoot it,” Conley said. “We get mad if he doesn’t.”

The space Union saw from Sumner’s zone defense eventually dissipated as the Spartans pushed out its perimeter defenders to better contest Union’s hot shooting. At first, it forced tightly-marked Titan 3s, which threw off Union’s rhythm a little bit, until it began working the ball down low.

“We adjusted,” Toolson said. “They were spacing the zone out a little bit, we got its inside, got some good looks.”

Toolson, a junior, hit four 3s, found success on the inside, facilitated out of the high-low and asserted himself on the boards. His performance, Conley said, was the most complete on the team.

“He’s just our Swiss army knife,” Conley said. “He does it all.”

Lackey, who scored all 11 of his points in the fourth, drove past two defenders and finished to put Union up 20 two minutes into the fourth quarter. Sumner scored six-straight to pull within 14. The Spartans responded to another Lackey 3 with a floater to cut the Titan lead to 12 with 2:33 to go, but Smith clapped back with a 3 on the other end to put the game away.

Sumner, which finished fourth in the 4A SPSL, was led by Cody Tanneberg’s game-high 29 points.

Whether Thursday night’s game will be ruled a loser-out won’t be determined until Monday as athletic directors around the state scramble to prepare for a potential winter storm, which the National Weather Service in Portland indicates could begin Friday.

But the Titans, who are locked into their goal of winning a 4A state title, say scheduling won’t effect that way they prepare for the next game. All that matters is they are one of the seven teams to advance out of the 16-team bi-district tournament.

Thursday was as good a start as they hoped.

“We put ourselves in a spot in the regular season where we control our own destiny,” Lackey said. “We took care of this one so we know we’re in good shape.”

SUMNER — AJ Andino 2, Truman Young 4, Cody Tanneberg 29, Jake Curnow 0, Nathan Voliva 6, Josh Lear 6, Connor Chalich 0, Carson Bohl 3. 19 (2) 12-19 52.
UNION — Brad Lackey 11, Houston Combs 9, Izaiah Vongnath 1, Ariya Briscoe 3, Josh Reznick 0, Tanner Toolson 19, Alishawuan Taylor 5, Ethan Smith 23, Connor Flannigan 0, Mason Hill 0, Ty McCullum 2, Curtis Youngren 2. 24 (15) 12-15 75.
Sumner 12 9 15 16 — 52
Union 21 15 17 22 — 75

Columbian Staff Writer