Tigers advance to semifinals for first time since 2011 with win over Crusaders


SPOKANE — As the Napavine boys basketball team walked off the court on Thursday, Feb. 29, it was business as usual. There was no grand celebration, and only a few Tigers cracked a smile.

But for Rex Stanley’s still undefeated team, the 66-59 win over Northwest Christian in the 2B quarterfinals meant more than their emotions may have displayed. The Tigers will head to the semifinals for the first time in 13 years when they finished second to Northwest Christian.

“These guys have been working for it. This core group has basically played over 90 games for us, and we’ve come over here and lost some really tough, close games,” Stanley said. “It was really nice to get one done tonight.”

Entering Thursday’s game, the Tigers had won 11 straight games by double digits. In the first half, it appeared Napavine would make it 12 against the ninth-seeded Crusaders. James Grose and Karsen Denault combined to score 15 of the Tigers’ 17 first-quarter points as they led by seven entering the second.

Grose continued his hot start with six points in the first two minutes of the second quarter, bringing the Tigers into comfortable territory with a 10-point lead. Slowly, the Crusaders chipped away at the deficit, using a 10-3 run to draw within one at halftime, with the Tigers still in front, 30-29.

Northwest Christian’s Avi West, who finished with a game-high 26 points, gave his team its first lead since early in the contest with a 3-pointer. In the third quarter, neither team led by more than three points as the two squads combined for 39 points in the period. Entering the fourth, Napavine led 50-48.

Denault took over in the fourth quarter, scoring seven points, beginning with a go-ahead triple with over six minutes left. He earned the biggest shot of the night for Napavine, pouring in an old-fashioned three-point play to make it 63-59 with 53 seconds left.

“He’s big for us every night. Karsen played lights out,” Stanley said of his junior, who finished with 21 points on 9 of 11 shooting.

Grose added to his big night with a trio of free throws to seal the 66-59 victory. He finished with 24 points and 11 rebounds.

“I didn’t have a doubt because we’ve got such an experienced team,” Stanley said. “These guys have played close games for the last four years, so I knew they’d know how to finish games and they did.”

The Tigers move on to face No. 3 Colfax on Friday, March 1 at 9 p.m. The victor will face either No. 4 Lake Roosevelt or No. 1 Columbia in the 2B title game on Saturday at 3 p.m., while the loser will head to the third-place game on Saturday at 1 p.m.