KELSO — For the second straight season, the Morton-White Pass boys basketball team is marching on to the regional round of state, and the 2B District 4 title game.
Chief Leschi was a tough nut to crack in the first half, taking a one-point lead into halftime of a Wednesday night semifinal showdown in Kelso, but a 32-point eruption in the third quarter saw the Timberwolves separate for good in an 89-60 victory.
The win pushes the T-Wolves in a district title matchup against Adna Saturday at W.F. West at 8 p.m.
“This team started the season with goals,” MWP coach Chad Cramer said. “Napavine got us and took away a goal from us. The team was pretty disappointed in that, but we came back and wanted to get back here to get the chance to cut nets down. That’s one thing off the list.”
Morton-White Pass ran its 1-3-1 defense against the Warriors, to varying success in the first half. Letting Leschi get out and run, and losing a couple of its 3-point shooters, the Warriors took a 33-32 lead into the halftime break.
In the third quarter, the Timberwolves doubled their points, outscoring the Warriors 32-12 to run away with the win.
That 1-3-1, with Hunter Hazen at the top and Jake Cournyer, Carter Dantinne, and Judah Kelly roaming the wings, forced turnover after turnover. Hazen ended up with 27 points, with most of his second half points coming in transition, with Cournyer adding 12 with a pair of 3-pointers.
“I really like that top spot,” Hazen said. “It’s fastbreak after fastbreak. It’s getting in passing lanes and creating havoc. I just kept telling our guys hands up, hands up. We’ll wear them down.
“When we get talking and moments run like that, we get hot and we keep rolling.”
But once again, it all started in the middle with Josh Salguero. The senior big man notched another monster 28-point, 18-rebound double-double, and dominated the Warriors for most of the night from the low block.
Though, when Salguero had a sit out for stretches in the second half due to foul trouble, Hazen, Cournyer and company made sure to not let off the gas.
Cramer and Hazen credited MWP’s scout team and players who hardly see the floor for prepping them for Leschi’s aggressive press.
“Our non-starters and our guys that don’t get in had an excellent week of prepping us,” Cramer said. “They don’t get a lot of credit, or get any publically, but they had a great week of prep imitating their press and what they do. We don’t get it done tonight with them.”
Now the T-Wolves are in a familiar position, with a chance to cut down some nets on Saturday against an all-too-familiar foe in Adna on Saturday at 8 p.m. in Chehalis.
After losing a heartbreaker to Kalama in the district championship a year ago, the Timberwolves are hoping for a different result this weekend.
“We’ve been in this situation last year and it stung a lot when we lost that district title,” Hazen said. “We wanted to get back here and make it different.”