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News / Sports / Prep Sports

River boys make statement in win over Mark Morris

Chieftains get convincing 69-50 win

By Andy Buhler, Columbian Staff Writer
Published: January 3, 2019, 11:09pm
2 Photos
Columbia River’s Evan Dirksen drives through a Mark Morris defender. Dirksen finished with 20 points as River beat the Monarchs 69-50.
Columbia River’s Evan Dirksen drives through a Mark Morris defender. Dirksen finished with 20 points as River beat the Monarchs 69-50. (Nathan Howard/The Columbian) Photo Gallery

Could this be the season someone ends Mark Morris’ 18-year run of league titles?

That was certainly the question looming ahead of this season, and on Thursday night, the Columbia River boys gave plenty indication that they’ll be a firm obstacle. But coach David Long insisted his team isn’t looking that far ahead.

“It’s an old cliche, but it’s one game at a time,” Long said. “We’ve just got to keep winning games. Records take care of themselves, RPI formula, we can only control what we do out there on the floor.”

The Chieftains made 10 of 11 shots inside the 3-point line and held Mark Morris to 14 first half points, creating enough separation to withstand a late comeback to beat the Monarchs, with whom they shared the 2A Greater St. Helens League title with last year, 69-50 at Columbia River High School.

“Tonight we wanted to come out and make a statement against league rivals and come out and give it to ’em,” junior guard Nate Snook said.

21 Photos
Mark Morris huddles before their match against Columbia River at Columbia River High School on Thursday, Jan. 3, 2019.
Gallery: Columbia River vs. Mark Morris Basketball Photo Gallery

Well, statement made.

River built a 22-point lead at halftime and stymied a second half Mark Morris jolt that turned the game physical.

“Our defense really led the way,” forward Evan Dirksen said.

Snook scored 18 of his game-high 26 points in the first half, personally outscored Mark Morris 13-6 in the second quarter and hit the dagger 3-pointer that silenced a late swing of Monarch momentum.

Dirksen had 20 points for the Chieftains, most of them coming in the second half when the Chieftains looked for ways to respond to a fiery Dawson Fritz. The Mark Morris point guard hit a 3 and completed a three-point play early in the third quarter to inject life into the Monarchs and, perhaps unwittingly, pounce on River’s trend of coming out flat in third quarters.

Fritz scored 16 of his team-high 19 points in the second half to help cut the River lead to single digits at one point.

“He’s a tough kid, good athlete,” He did a hell of a job in the second half. He’s the straw that stirs their drink. No question about it. We couldn’t contain him.”

A Dirksen 3 gave River a cushion early in the fourth when Mark Morris cut the deficit to single digits. It was River’s four returning rotation players who delivered key plays to freeze the Monarchs’ momentum.

Caden Dezort finished a three-point play and Snook hit a 3 to put the Chieftains up 14 with 2:23 left in the fourth quarter. Dezort added 10 points.

Snook and Dirksen have stepped into larger roles in Long’s rigidly structured offense by filling in for the loss of the team’s two leading scorers from last season.

And with a disruptive perimeter defender on him (Fritz), Snook let loose in the second quarter by slicing into the paint and finding the free throw line, from where he was 4 for 4 in the second quarter. He also added three 3s, two in the first half.

“When (teammates) get steals and I leak out, I get easy layups and I just couldn’t do it without my teammates,” Snook said.

The Columbia River boys have led at halftime in every game but one this season. It’s a the mark of a team that knows how to start off strong, and against perennial league juggernaut Mark Morris, the Chieftains delivered a 16 near-perfect minutes of basketball.

“Our halftime spread was so nice, that we were able to survive their run,” Long said.

Now, in the grand picture the Chieftains (8-2, 2-0) appear poised to take a swing at the run the Monarchs have sustained over nearly two decades.

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Columbian Staff Writer