BATTLE GROUND — Mitch Taylor watched the best basketball players of Southwest Washington compete in his 15 years as Battle Ground High School’s PA announcer. None were quite like Tigers senior Kaden Perry.
All eyes turn to the 6-foot-9 forward and ESPN top 100 recruit when he walks into any gymnasium. Fans love to watch him; young hoopers aspire to play like him; and foes love to beat him.
The Camas Papermakers did just that on Friday night, toppling Battle Ground 78-77 in a thrilling 4A/3A Greater St. Helens League matchup. Perry scored 32 points and hauled in 13 rebounds, but a pair of last-second close-range attempts were fruitless. The latter bounced thrice on the cusp of the rim before falling away as the buzzer sounded.
Camas junior Carson Frawley studied plenty of film of Perry leading up to Friday night’s matchup. He remembers watching from the stands as Perry dunked on Camas teams of years past. This was his first time going toe-to-toe with the Gonzaga commit.
Frawley scored 25 points, including five first-half 3-pointers, to lead the Papermakers. He was one of four Camas defenders to challenge Perry’s last-second attempt.
“It’s cool to say you beat someone of that caliber,” Frawley said. “I remember him coming out dunking on Camas when I was in eighth grade. And it’s cool to come out and my first time facing him, to beat him.”
Camas took a 78-77 lead on a 3-pointer from Christian Lenard with 46 seconds left. Battle Ground followed up Lenard’s big shot with a turnover. The Papermakers then missed the front end of a one-and-one on the other end. After a trio of timeouts, Camas inbounded the ball to Perry with 6 seconds left as the Papermaker defense collapsed in to deny the game-winner.
“I messed up at the end; I’ll own up to that,” Perry said. “Those are the plays you have to have. I don’t think it was a bad shot. I’ll take that 10 more times if I had to for the game-winner.”
Perry committed to Gonzaga before his junior season. He witnessed the Bulldogs’ undefeated run to the NCAA national championship game, which ended in defeat to Baylor, and dreamed of reaching that stage again when he saw recruits like No. 1-ranked Chet Holmgren, out of Minnesota, sign with the ‘Zags.
Perry is special beyond his raw athleticism, adept finishing around the rim and interior defense that led to five blocked shots Friday night.
“He wanted to play here,” Taylor said.
Talents like Perry don’t often stick around Battle Ground. In a year where sports were uncertain in Washington, many of the Evergreen State’s top players went elsewhere. Many players in Perry’s shoes might have transferred to one of the state’s elite high school programs, where Perry wouldn’t face triple teams and the bumps and bruises that come with it. Perry was sidelined for six minutes on Friday with an ankle injury and took a scary fall on his wrist after fighting through the Camas defense.
“I built a family here,” Perry said. “I want to finish it out here.”
Freshman Jackson Gray, who plays on the Battle Ground C-team, first saw Perry play in practice this spring. He was in awe.
“There would be three guys on him and he still managed to score,” Gray said. “It made me think: ‘Was I ready for it?’ ”
Gray stuck with it, and playing alongside Perry gave him the confidence he could also be playing on the varsity team someday. Next year, he said he’ll watch every Gonzaga game.
“Just to see him play,” he said.
When Perry leaves, other great basketball players will come through Battle Ground’s doors — either friend or foe — but for now, Taylor is relishing those chances to watch one of the area’s best basketball players compete in Tiger orange.
Said Taylor: “The reason why I do it is to see talent like that.”
Camas 78, Battle Ground 77
Camas 17 26 17 18-78
BG 11 30 20 16-77
CAMAS — Armand Nunez 0, Aiden Montigny 6, Theo McMillan 2, Kyan Thompson 7, Christian Lenard 8, Carson Frawley 25, Quentin Allen 5, Stephen Behil 11, Jacob Gray 12, Chase Muro 0, Blake Bell 2. Totals 29 (14) 6-12 78.
BATTLE GROUND — Charles Jones 0, Max Ramirez 7, Cole Billingsley 9, Cassius Davis 3, Tait Spencer 15, Kaden Perry 32, Ty Robertson 11, Noah Currie 0. Totals 30 (5) 6-11 77.