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In ‘do-or-die’ mode, Union dispatches Battle Ground for 55-35 win

Titans grab key road win to move into tie for third place in 4A GSHL boys basketball standings

By Will Denner, Columbian staff writer
Published: January 30, 2024, 10:56pm

BATTLE GROUND — Don’t count out the Union Titans just yet.

After a 55-35 road win over Battle Ground on Tuesday to move into a tie for third place in the 4A Greater St. Helens League standings, the Titans didn’t downplay the significance of the result.

As Union coach Garold Howe said from the bench multiple times during the game, it was “do or die” time for the Titans.

“We were talking about it all week practicing, this game is our season right here,” junior Kody Holcomb said. “If we don’t win this, then it’s over.”

Union (8-10, 1-3) played with the urgency of a team with no margin error. The visitors led 21-18 at halftime after Battle Ground’s Ian Ebinger hit a 3-pointer nearing the end of the second quarter, then turned up the intensity in the second half.

Nick Burchett, Grayson Stanley and Holcomb all scored baskets to help Union build an 11-0 run, and ultimately outscore Battle Ground 23-9 in the third quarter to take a commanding 14-point lead to the fourth. The Titans pushed the lead to 17 after a three-point play converted by Holcomb, who scored a game-high 18 points, prompting Battle Ground (7-10, 1-3) to empty its bench with three minutes left in the fourth.

Union’s zone defense held Battle Ground under 10 points in all four quarters.

“We watched a lot of film. We had a scheme for every single play that they ran against us,” Stanley said. “Shout out to our coach (Howe) — he watches film all night, every night. He doesn’t get any sleep. We’re so thankful to have a guy like him who’s helping us out and doing the hard work to get the information to us.”

Union has struggled with consistency at times this season, and lost four of five games coming into Tuesday. The biggest difference Titans players saw against the Tigers? Their effort.

“The effort all around the entire game and leaving it all out on the court,” Stanley said. “We’ve struggled in the past a couple games with giving up or quitting on each other. The brotherhood and the unity just stayed there throughout the whole game. We played for each other, that was the difference.”

Paxton Heitsch and Tucker Dunseth each added nine points for the Titans, all on 3-pointers.

With two games left in the regular season, Union and Battle Ground will be vying for the third and final 4A bi-district playoff berth from the 4A GSHL, with each having won on the other’s home court.

For the Titans, Tuesday’s win gives them a chance of continuing a long-standing streak. The program has reached the postseason in 14 consecutive seasons, excluding the spring 2021 COVID season when no playoff events were held.

On Friday, Union faces Camas and Battle Ground draws Skyview.

“This is a great start,” Holcomb said. “Next is Camas, and we’re not going to let go of the gas. We’re fully on the gas.”

10 Photos
Union’s Grayson Stanley reaches down to retrieve a loose ball in the backcourt during a 4A GSHL boys basketball game against Battle Ground on Tuesday, Jan. 30, 2024, at Battle Ground High School.
Boys Basketball: Union at Battle Ground Photo Gallery


UNION — Nolan Frazier 2, Paxton Heitsch 9, Grayson Stanley 5, Tucker Dunseth 9, Arthur Novotarskiy 3, Drew Hill 0, Kody Holcomb 18, Tyrell Cash 0, Noah Jones 0, Nick Burchett 6, Pat Howe 0, Daniel Kirichenko 3. Totals 19 (9) 5-6 55.

BATTLE GROUND — Derrick Amanor 3, Jonathan Reed 3, Ethan Adams 0, Jacob Scharff 0, Ian Ebinger 6, James Gill 0, Noah Currie 6, Austin Ralphs 7, Trey Spencer 10, Jacob Renfroe 0, Boston Walker 0. Totals 12 (5) 6-9 35.

Union 12 9 23 11—55

Battle Ground 9 9 9 8—35