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News / Sports / Prep Sports

Union nets another boys basketball title outright

Titans beat Skyview 72-55 to lock up 4A GSHL

By Andy Buhler, Columbian Staff Writer
Published: January 30, 2019, 11:09pm
11 Photos
Houston Combs cuts a piece of the basketball net after Union defeated Skyview on Wednesday to win the 4A Greater St. Helens League title.
Houston Combs cuts a piece of the basketball net after Union defeated Skyview on Wednesday to win the 4A Greater St. Helens League title. (Alisha Jucevic/The Columbian) Photo Gallery

Just over a year ago, it was the same two teams, and similar circumstances.

Only this time, the Union boys basketball team wasn’t playing catch-up. It was asserting its dominance.

Union routed Skyview 72-55 to clinch the 4A Greater St. Helens League title outright and extend its undefeated season to 20-0 on Wednesday evening at Union High School.

And with the league crown, Union, the No. 1 team in the 4A boys RPI rankings and only undefeated team left in the across the state’s top classification, secured home court advantage in the bi-district tournament, which begins next Thursday.

The scene after the game, the net cutting, the leaping up and down, the extra-long postgame debrief full of cheers and claps, was decidedly different from last year.

16 Photos
Union's Houston Combs (5) cuts a piece of the basketball net after defeating Skyview in Wednesday night's game and securing the 4A Greater St. Helens League title at Union High School on Jan. 30, 2019. Union won 72-55.
Gallery: Union vs. Skyview Basketball Photo Gallery

Sure, the Titans cut down a net a year ago in the league tiebreaker at Evergreen. But it was a net that signified a shared league title since Union and Skyview split the season 1-1 and forced a tiebreaker for first place — a scenario that was on the table Wednesday night had Skyview won.

The Titans wanted first place all by its lonesome.

“We always had that chip on our shoulder when Skyview said they were league champs with us,” Titans guard Tanner Toolson said. “We did not want to share it with them this year. We wanted to win it outright, and it feels good.”

The Titans’ leading scorer Ethan Smith had 10 of his 12 points by halftime. On Wednesday night, a few had the hot hand. Toolson led Union with 17 points, including 15 in the third quarter, Brad Lackey added 16 and Houston Combs had 13 points.

Alex Schumacher led Skyview with 19 points and Kyle Gruhler had 12 points and 16 rebounds — 10 boards in the first half. Schumacher became Skyview’s all-time leading scorer, surpassing the previous record of 1,200 points, set by Jon Bond in 2004. Going into the game, Schumacher needed 13 to break it.

After a back-and-forth first half, Combs hit a corner 3 in transition to put the Titans up by six in the final seconds of the first half.

Conley stressed to his team halftime the importance of raising the energy. Skyview missed open shots that would certainly fall in the second half if the Titans didn’t pick up their energy, he said.

“I knew we were going to get it done,” Combs said. “We all have the fight in us. That was the main thing coach Conley was telling us, ‘fight! Fight! Fight!’ ”

After missing a his first couple shots, Toolson answered the call in the third by hitting a range of shots from all over the floor.

“I (was just) feeling it and my teammates fed me the ball,” Toolson said.

After Toolson cut his piece of the net off, he turned atop the ladder and held it up to the Union fans. It was a moment he had dreamt about since kindergarten, he said.

When Union coach Blake Conley thinks about Union’s successes in the 4A Greater St. Helens league over the course of the last decade, he evokes the legacy of Maco Hamilton, the Titans’ first coach who built the boys program into state champions in its third year. He also thinks about the numerous former players who were a part of the eight consecutive league titles — seven outright.

The Storm (15-5, 6-2 4A GSHL) enter the district tournament as the No. 2 seed on the road against the North Puget Sound League No. 4 team — either Mt. Rainier or Auburn.

Union (20-0, 8-0) hosts the South Puget Sound League No. 4 team on Feb. 7 at 7 p.m.

The Titans made sure to celebrate its win Wednesday night, but know it’s back to business.

“Feels great,” Combs said with his piece of victory net tucked behind his right ear. “Couldn’t have it any better. Next step we’re 0-0 now going into playoffs and want to look at the next team we play.”

UNION 72, SKYVIEW 55
SKYVIEW — Alex Schumacher 19, Colby Barkee 0, Squeeky Johnson 5, Derek Lewis 0, Sean Boss 7, Lowell Dunmire 0, Alec Marshall 0, Kyle Gruhler 12, Jace Chatman 5, Cody McKinney 7. Totals 20 (4) 9-14 55.
UNION — Brad Lackey 16, Houston Combs 13, Ariya Briscoe 0, Josh Reznick 6, Tanner Toolson 17, Alishawuan Taylor 2, Ethan Smith 12, Mason Hill 0, Ty McCullum 0, Curtis Youngren 6. Totals 27 (8) 10-12 72.
Skyview 14 8 15 18 — 55
Union 16 12 23 21 — 72

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Columbian Staff Writer