Almost is how to best describe Evergreen’s result in Tuesday’s 3A Greater St. Helens League showdown with league-title favorite Kelso.
In fact, almost might be best to describe the Plainsmen’s past two losses against two of the state’s top teams in Class 4A and 3A. First came an overtime loss to Union, 4A’s top-ranked and lone undefeated team, and then Tuesday’s 79-74 home defeat to an 11-win Hilanders squad.
Reigning league co-MVP Shaw Anderson, a Seattle Pacific signee, notched another double-double, including a game-best 35 points as one of three Kelso players to score in double figures. Twelve of Shaw’s points came going 12 of 15 at the line.
Now dropping five of its past six games and four of those losses by a combined 15 points, Evergreen junior Zyell Griffin and his teammates are taking the defeats in stride. It’s not easy, the junior said, especially with how close Evergreen’s been to more wins. But the closes losses is what stings most, he said.
“We’re getting better as a team,” said Griffin, who finished with 10 points, including nine in the second half. “… just being so close, it hurts.”
Second-year coach Brett Henry feels similarly. He knows the moral victories will eventually turn into actual wins, but has comfort knowing his team is going in the right direction.
“We’re right there,” Henry said, “and we still believe we’re going to compete for one of the home playoff games.”
It was Griffin’s 3-pointer Tuesday — the only 3-point attempted by the 6-foot-3 junior — that gave Evergreen a fighting chance in a game they led four times, but trailed by 11 at 76-65 inside 2 minutes to play after getting Kelso lead to within one at 64-63 earlier in the fourth quarter. The Hilanders hit four 3s in a 4-minute span, including Riley Noah’s bank shot off the glass to end the third quarter, for its largest lead of the game.
Evergreen’s length and athleticism, particularly in its press, aided in the Plainsmen’s favor, especially its late-game comeback that led to Griffin’s right-corner 3 and the foul called with 13.7 ticks left on the game clock to pull within 76-74. Griffin missed the free throw, but a possession later, Kelso had two fouls to give before the bonus, and didn’t allow for Evergreen to take a potential game-tying shot with its lead at 77-74.
Henry had nothing but praise for his players.
“There’s no quit in them,” Henry said. “They desperately want to be considered one of the better teams (in the region). They want it for themselves.”
Mario Herring, averaging 9 points a game entering Tuesday, finished with a team-best 20 points. Twelve came in the second half as he proved instrumental in Evergreen’s late-game push playing bigger than his 6-foot-5 frame.
Herring is a first-year varsity player and transfer from Portland’s Benson High. He credits his new coaches, teammates for helping him blossom.
“It’s a lot different with a shot clock,” Herring said, “but I’ve gotten the feel of it.”
Noah added 18 for Kelso and Jayden Hardeman had 15. Eight of Carter Monda’s 13 points came in the second half.
Evergreen’s outside shooting — hitting 6 of 11 first-half 3s — pulled it within 39-37 at halftime.
Despite a 5-8 record and 1-2 in the 3A GSHL, Evergreen turns to its next game Friday at Hudson’s Bay believing a signature win is on the horizon.
“We’re tired of losing,” Griffin said, “so we’re coming out with high energy.”
KELSO 79, EVERGREEN 74
KELSO — Shaw Anderson 35, Jayden Hardeman 15, Riley Noah 18, Josh Webb 4, Drew Tack 2, Wyatt Brown 5. Totals 25 (7) 18-26 79.
EVERGREEN — Cam Smith 8, Travis Huffman Jr. 9, Zyell Griffin 10, Tyler Ricketts 2, Izaac Romero 8, Carter Monda 13, Mario Herring 20, Tae Marks 4. Totals 31 (9) 3-6 74.
Kelso 22 17 23 17—79
Evergreen 14 23 19 18—74