Tigers pull away from Dragons to clinch spot in quarterfinals


From day one, Napavine’s goal was to qualify for the state tournament and earn a top-four seed. After having to hit the road for Regionals in each of the last two seasons, they were hopeful that they would earn the right to host this time around.

They did just that, going a perfect 22-0 on their way to the No. 2 seed, and on Saturday at W.F. West, they took advantage of the “home” court, pulling away from No. 7 St. George’s for a 70-47 opening-round win.

“This is just really nice to be able to stay home and prepare,” Napavine coach Rex Stanley said. “And the game played out just how we envisioned it.”

The win played out as many of the Tigers’ (23-0) previous 22 did, with the Tigers wearing down the Dragons throughout the game with their defensive pressure before the offense pulled away in the second half.

St. George’s Elden Pierce shot the ball well, going 7 for 11 from the floor for a team-high points, but the rest of the Dragons combined for just 31 points while shooting a combined 12 for 42

“We start with the two Cayle’s (Kelly and Cael Stanley), and we load it up from there,” Stanley said. “I thought we did a good job of making other guys try to beat us.”

Kelly and Stanley both came away with two steals, as did Jarin Prather, who led the way offensively early on.

He hit two threes in the first-quarter, including one in the final seconds, as part of a 10-point frame that kickstarted the Napavine offense. 

As the game went along and the Dragons shifted attention his way, he was able to find open teammates and finished with six assists along with his 19 points.

“Jarin has been absolute money for us all year,” Stanley said. “He’s kind of an unsung hero. He’s been solid and we’re gonna need him next week.”

Prather got the ball rolling early, but it was Karsen Denault who took over as the game went along. Denault finished with a game-high 23 points on 10 of 17 shooting. He did most of his damage in the paint, and he was also able to secure 10 rebounds for a double-double.

James Grose also had success in spurts throughout the game, most notably a run of six straight points early in the second half that pushed Napavine’s lead from eight to 14.

The Dragons later trimmed the deficit back to 10 late in the third, but the Tigers followed with a 13-0 run over the next three minutes and change to put the game out of reach.

With the win, the Tigers are through to the state quarterfinals and the double-elimination part of the state tournament.

While they won’t take the court at Spokane Arena until Thursday at 9 p.m., they’ll head east on Tuesday to practice on Wednesday morning before watching the Round of 12 games Wednesday afternoon.

The Tigers will be looking to avenge their last two trips to Spokane, both of which ended with the Tigers leaving without a win. In 2022, the Tigers lost in the quarterfinals and lost their first game in the lower bracket, and in 2023, they were bounced in the Round of 12.

“These guys have been there and done that,” Stanley said. “Now we’re looking to leave our mark. The last two years, we’ve left with a bad taste in our mouth. This year, these guys are dialed in.”