NAPAVINE — To say that James Grose and the Napavine boys basketball team dominated from the opening tip-off Tuesday night would be a bit of an exaggeration; after all, Willapa Valley actually won the jump itself. But it didn’t take much longer than that.
After the Vikings took the ball down the court and missed a shot, Karsen Dennault rebounded the ball and threw it upcourt to Grose, who buried a 3-pointer while drawing contact, and converted the four-point play. And that’s when the domination truly began, kickstarting what turned into an 81-50 non-league win for the Tigers (5-2, 3-0 C2BL).
Napavine was coming off the worst type of extended break, having lost two games to Eastern Washington teams in not-particularly-close fashion across the mountains, then gotten five days over Christmas to stew on it.
“A lot of people were fired up,” senior Cael Stanley said. “We had gone all the way to Brewster and then lost two games. That was pretty upsetting. And then got to regroup over Christmas.”
From Grose’ opening bucket, the Tigers let their frustrations out. Napavine scored nearly at will, with three 3-pointers in the first two minutes setting the tone. From there, the Tigers’ press went to work, forcing six turnovers in the quarter and keeping the Vikings off balance.
Off one of those takeaways, Denault took off on a breakaway and slammed down a jam to make it 20-0, four and a half minutes in. Grose would hit two more triples, and Denault would beat the buzzer with a third, and — despite going two minutes without a bucket at one point — the Tigers led 28-0 at the end of the quarter.
“It was us coming out with a lot of energy and creating the tempo that we’re trying to create,” Napavine coach Rex Stanley said. “Getting people to play a little faster than they want to and letting our defense feed our offense. All of that happened in the first quarter.”
Willapa Valley finally got onto the scoreboard 45 seconds into the second quarter, but as the Vikings found their groove, Grose stayed in his, and then some. The senior went from red-hot to downright unconscious in the second quarter, nailing five more 3-pointers to go into halftime on eight.
Come the break, Grose had 31 points on 11-of-15 shooting, and with the Tigers up by 31 points, the game was less in doubt than the Napavine single-game scoring record of 42.
“He’s been lights-out all year,” Rex Stanley said. “He’s been about as consistent as you can be seven games in. He’s been lights-out, and the rest of the guys are doing a good job of finding him. He obviously is getting a lot of attention from defenses, and we’re doing a really good job of getting him the ball in the right spots, and he’s making the most of it.”
Grose put in nine more points in the third quarter, then added five in fourth, tying the record on a putback off an offensive rebound and breaking it a minute later on a fadeaway jumper, tacking on a free throw for a final total of 45 points.
“I wasn’t even thinking about the record, really,” Grose said. “I was focused on the game.”
The senior finished 16 for 23 from the field and 10 for 16 from 3-pointer range, also tying Napavine’s single-game record for made triples. He and Denault shared the team lead with seven rebounds.
Denault scored 11 points, and Cayle Kelly added 10, hitting a pair of 3-pointers of his own. Cael Stanley only scored two points but dished out 12 assists, the bulk of which, of course, went to Grose.
Napavine will get another non-league test Wednesday on the road at Castle Rock, before wrapping up its week back at home against Rochester.