BATTLE GROUND — While senior point guard Bryson Metz sat out three games earlier this season with a sprained ankle, Union’s supporting cast of players stepped into larger roles.
In the big picture, that three-game stretch in December provided a valuable lesson for the Titans, even while losing a pair of games at the Hardwood Invite in Auburn.
Now with that experience, and a healthy Metz back in the lineup, The Titans have found another gear. Friday’s 97-63 win over 4A Greater St. Helens League foe Battle Ground offered plenty of examples.
Union led by seven after the first quarter, before doubling its lead less than three minutes into the second quarter and ultimately taking a 51-36 halftime lead.
Metz had 34 points with six 3-pointers to lead the Titans, but equally important was his hounding defense, leading to numerous fastbreak chances, and playing the role of distributor for the likes of Yanni Fassillis (31 points) and Josiah Baldassare (13 points).
“He just makes up for so many things,” Union coach Blake Conley said of Metz. “To have a kid that fast, that quick, and tonight he shot really well. When he shoots that well, he’s unguardable. Arguably one of the best players in Clark County.
“To have a point guard that leads the way he does, both on the defensive and offensive end, it makes life (easier) and it makes our team go. We knew we’re better with Bryson, but like I said, I think we learned some stuff, what we need to do, having those three games without him.”
There were no shortage of highlights, or moments that brought Union’s bench and the crowd to its feet.
The exclamation point came with under a minute left in the first half when Metz grabbed a steal, pushed up the floor and flipped a behind-the-back pass to Fassillis who gathered the ball in stride and flushed down a dunk.
Fassillis, a transfer from Washougal, came into the game averaging a team-high 17.9 points in 10 games with Union.
“That’s just one thing with Union, when new guys come into our program like Yanni, he just feels like it’s home,” Metz said. “I feel like off the court stuff is just as important. He’s fit right in and he’s been amazing for our team, just unbelievable.”
Tait Spencer tallied 32 points to lead Battle Ground (2-4), which played its first game in more than three weeks, dating back to Dec. 14 against Skyview. Subsequent games against Kelso, and most recently, Tuesday against Camas, were both postponed due to COVID-19 protocols.
Union’s lead grew to 30 points with approximately two minutes left in the third quarter, though the Tigers responded with a 10-2 run with a 3-pointer from Ty Robertson and two straight steals and layups from Spencer. Battle Ground got within 76-59 less than a minute into the fourth quarter.
Robertson chipped in 17 points for the Tigers.
Union (8-3) is slated to play fellow 4A GSHL teams Skyview and Camas in a pair of home games next week.
“I really do believe we can do something special this year if we just keep moving forward,” Metz said. “Moving on from this win, it’s a great win, but it’s back to work tomorrow.”
UNION 97, BATTLE GROUND 63
UNION — Kindrick Aragon 3, Jamison Limbrick 7, Bryson Metz 34, Porter Hill 9, Ethan Carter 0, Tucker Dunseth 0, Yanni Fassillis 31, Josiah Baldassare 13. Totals 37 (9) 14-24 97.
BATTLE GROUND — Austin Ralphs 0, Cassius Davis 5, Charles Jones 0, Noah Currie 4, Todd Copper 2, Ian Ebinger 0, Tait Spencer 32, Ty Robertson 17, Hudson Massie 2, Henri Smith 0, Jacob Champine 0, Trey Spencer 2, Samuel McDermott 0. Totals 26 (7) 4-5 63.
Union 26 25 25 21—97
Bat.Ground 19 17 21 6—63
JV — Union 54-50