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Hockinson boys basketball team rallies past Shelton 60-43 in 2A district pigtail game

Hawks outscore Highclimbers 45-13 in second half to reach 2A district playoffs

By Will Denner, Columbian staff writer
Published: February 8, 2024, 11:57pm

HOCKINSON — A playoff game that began with a forgettable first half gave way to something the Hockinson boys basketball team will remember for a long time.

The Hawks’ cold shooting yielded just two points in the opening quarter, and they dug themselves a 15-point halftime deficit against visiting Shelton on Thursday in the Class 2A district pigtail game, the loser of which would see its season come to an end.

Within a matter of minutes to open the third quarter, Hockinson’s slow start was history.

Hockinson’s backcourt pressure began to stifle Shelton, leading to turnovers and scoring opportunities in the open court. Ryker Kitchen started off the run with a steal and made a layup. Then, Andrew Meier scored inside as he drew a foul, and Payton Poppe drilled the first of four 3-pointers he’d hit in the quarter.

12 Photos
Hockinson’s Tanner Williams elevates for a layup as Shelton defenders look on during a Class 2A boys basketball district pigtail game on Thursday, Feb. 8, 2024, at Hockinson High School.
2A District Boys Basketball: Shelton at Hockinson Photo Gallery

“We started hitting shots and the crowd got into it,” Poppe said. “So the energy really picked up and we had the momentum.”

When all was said and done, Hockinson outscored Shelton 29-4 in the third and carried the lead through the final quarter to capture a 60-43 win in front of an energized home crowd. Hockinson advanced to the 2A district playoffs where it will play 2A Greater St. Helens League champion Mark Morris on Saturday’s at 6 p.m. in Longview.

“I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a team score two points in the first quarter and win,” Hockinson coach Dalton Rausch said, “but I guess there’s a first for everything. And luckily, we were on the positive side of that.”

The Hockinson boys haven’t hosted many playoff basketball games in recent memory, but they earned the right to do so Thursday after finishing fifth in the 2A GSHL and drawing the district pigtail matchup against Shelton (9-11) of the 2A Evergreen Conference.

The Hawks (11-11) felt some pressure with that history in their minds, and they acknowledged it got the best of them early.

“Nerves, for sure. We haven’t had a playoff game in Hockinson in eight years, maybe?” Kitchen said. “… A lot of nerves, big talk coming into the game so we knew we had to perform. Nerves got to us (early).”

Kitchen, who led Hockinson with 25 points, kept the Hawks within reach by scoring 10 of their points in the first half as they trailed 30-15 at the break.

The opening minutes of the second half, Rausch lauded his team for staying the course. Hockinson built an 18-0 run to take a 33-30 lead, before Shelton briefly reclaimed a one-point lead on scores from Weetly Cordova and Gabe Conklin.

Then it was Poppe’s turn to catch fire. The sophomore drained two nearly-identical 3-pointers from straight on several feet beyond the arc, then added another on a catch and shoot from the right elbow. Hockinson led 44-34 heading to the fourth.

“I just shot one from the volleyball line and it hit, so I knew I gotta keep shooting them and they kept falling,” Poppe said.

Shelton opened the fourth on a 9-0 run, with a Cordova 3-pointer trimming Hockinson’s lead to one point with six minutes left. Remarkably, the Hawks held the Highclimbers scoreless from that point on and put the finishing touches on a win with baskets from Kitchen, Poppe,

“Really proud of the guys,” Rausch said. “Brody (Bonife) had some very timely rebounds, Poppe, obviously, shot the lights out. … Just very proud that we stayed the course and continued to be aggressive.”

The win was a proud moment for the Hawks’ eight seniors, in particular, who improved this season to 8-8 in 2A GSHL games from a 2-14 mark last year. They also did that under a first-year head coach in Rausch, who’s the program’s third coach in five years.

“It means a lot, we’ve been talking about making it to districts since we were freshmen,” Kitchen said. “It means a lot to play with this group, eight seniors, I’ve been playing with them my whole life.”

Now, the Hawks will face Mark Morris, and are guaranteed at least two more games, if not more, this season.

“We’re playing a tough team on Saturday, so we just gotta bring energy and play our game,” Poppe said.


SHELTON — Omar Zepeda-Soto 2, Gabe Conklin 2, Dante Cruz 9, Bennett Henry 4, Journey Bear Perez 2, Weetly Cordova 17, Matt Carleton 5. Totals 15 (6) 5-12 00.

HOCKINSON — Ryker Kitchen 25, Tanner Williams 2, Grant Gumringer 2, Payton Poppe 20, Kirby VanderHouwen 0, Andrew Meier 2, Branden Correy 3, Brody Bonife 2, Ethan Wall 2, Daniel Fedorenko 0. Totals 21 (7) 7-9 60.

Shelton 14 16 4 7—43

Hockinson 2 13 29 16—60