It only seemed fitting a game to decide the 4A/3A Greater St. Helens League boys basketball district championship — and the final game of a COVID-19-condensed season — came down to the final possession.
A final possession in a game that had every bit of championship-like feel to it for Union and Skyview’s boys basketball teams on Friday night.
Bryson Metz’s two free throws with 11.2 seconds to play gave Union the lead for good and its defense held off two Skyview potential game-winning attempts on its final possession for a 61-60 victory at Union High School to close out the COVID-19-condensed season.
The victory also adds to Union’s 4A GSHL regular-season title. And in a season where no regional or state tournament at the Tacoma Dome was possible because of COVID-19, players were grateful just to have one — and especially a memorable final game for both sides.
The game can’t replace a postseason experience, but it came close.
“One-hundred percent,” said Metz, Union’s junior point guard. “One of the greatest feelings I’ve ever had. It was amazing.”
Amazing, too, because of the frenzy in the final 5 minutes.
Union led by as many as 18 points, thanks in part to its hot shooting behind the arc, only to see Skyview storm back to make it a one-possession game with 4:03 remaining in the fourth quarter.
Union hit 9 of its 10 3-pointers the first two quarters and led by double-digits as early as 2 minutes into the second. That double-digit lead came with 5:35 to play in the fourth up 56-44.
But as hot as Union was the first half, it was Skyview’s turn down the stretch.
The 18-point deficit didn’t faze the Storm, said senior Squeeky Johnson, who played his final high school game. If anything, it only fueled them.
Union swept the three regular-season meetings with Skyview, but Union won 67-64 its previous meeting May 27.
“We still believed in each other,” said Johnson, who will play at Edmonds Community College next season. “We knew we’d still come out and give them a run for their money.
And what a run it was.
Senior Mehkai Brooks had 23 of his game-high 30 in the final two quarters, including a 7-0 run himself to start the third quarter and scoring 11 of Skyview’s 21 fourth-quarter points. Brooks’ back-to-back buckets pulled Skyview within 56-55 and a putback by Cole Bain gave the Storm their only lead of the second half at 60-59 with 22.6 seconds to play. That was Skyview’s first lead since 10-9.
Union went cold-from the field in the fourth quarter with three field goals. But on the ensuing possession with Skyview’s lead at 60-59 is when Metz was fouled in the lane with 11.2 to play. He calmly hit two foul shots that gave Union the lead for good at 61-60.
Metz is no stranger to clutch moments, either. Before transferring to 4A Union, he starred at Class 1A King’s Way Christian. And in a similar situation earlier this season, the junior point guard also sank winning free throws in its victory over Camas.
“All of my teammates and coaches believed in me,” Metz said. “I looked over at the bench and they’re like ‘breathe, breathe’, and at that point, I was so focused and I had no doubt they were going in.
“I’m so thankful and blessed. It’s such an amazing opportunity and I couldn’t be more proud of my guys.”
Senior Kaden Horn led Union with 25 points, including 18 in the first half. Izaiah Vongnath added 11, including a running 70-footer at the first-quarter buzzer as part of an 18-5 scoring run by the Titans.
But it was the defense that is what Metz is most proud of. That showed on the final possession, too, when Skyview had two looks after bringing the ball up the full length of the court.
He credits him and his teammates’ focus down the stretch.
“We know we can score the ball at any point in time, but focusing on defense and getting back was the biggest thing. Getting back and playing hard on defense is what showed tonight.”
UNION 61, SKYVIEW 60
SKYVIEW — Dominic Wakeland 1, Colton Looney 11, Squeaky Johnson 9, Mehkai Brooks 30, David Sheppert 5, Cole Bain 4. Totals 22 (4) 12-18 60.
UNION — Ariya Briscoe 12, Bryson Metz 6, Izaiah Vongnath 11, Kaden Horn 25, Jake Bowen 7. Totals 24 (10) 2-4 61.
Skyview 15 7 17 21 — 60
Union 23 17 12 7 — 61