Tigers ride second-half surge to top Ducks


NAPAVINE — Just past the halfway point of Napavine’s matchup with Toutle Lake on Wednesday, the Tigers and Ducks were locked in a tight battle. In front of a packed gym, Napavine led by just two, and neither offense had taken over the game to pull away.

Over the next six minutes, the Tigers broke the game open, extending their lead with a 19-4 run to put the game out of reach entering the fourth quarter.

“I told the guys, this is how postseason games can go,” Rex Stanley. “It’s gonna be tight. You can even be down at half, or down in the third quarter, or down in the fourth quarter. Just keep playing and keep fighting. I was happy with how we responded in the second half today.”

The Ducks never got back within striking distance, as Napavine cruised to a 64-47 win to remain undefeated.

James Grose was the catalyst for the Napavine offense, not just in that third quarter run but throughout the game. He didn’t have his best day from beyond the arc, shooting 2 for 11, but he got to the rim early and often, shooting 9 for 15 on two-point shots en route to a game-high 29 points.

“This is what James does every night,” Stanley said. “He can score at all three levels … He is just an absolute handful for people.”

While the 3-pointers weren’t piling up for Grose, the Tigers were still able to hit nine threes on the night. Jarin Prather and Cael Stanley hit three each, and Cal Bullock drilled his only attempt.

On the other end of the floor, the Tigers (16-0, 10-0 C2BL) had a lot of success against Toutle Lake’s Zach Swanson, holding him to just nine points on 4 for 14 shooting.

“When you play Toutle, that’s who you start with,” Stanley said. “I thought Cayle Kelly did a great job on him. He played him about as well as you could play him.”

Connor Cox stepped up for the Ducks, scoring 21 points to keep them in the game, but no other Duck scored more than four and they couldn’t keep up in the second half.

Toutle Lake shot just 33.3 percent from the floor after the break, including just one 3-pointer.

Stanley was proud of how his defense “buckled down” after allowing 19 points in the first quarter, noting there was an increase in focus, specifically on the boards.

After being out-rebounded by seven in the first half, the Tigers had the advantage in the second half.

“It seemed like in the second half, we were allowing one shot (per possession),” Stanley said.

Grose led the way with nine rebounds, while Karsen Denault was right behind him with eight. Denault led the Tigers with five assists, while Stanley dished out four and Prather tallied three.

The Tigers have a chance for two milestones on Friday at Toledo, as a win would clinch the C2BL league title and 33 points from Grose would put him at 2,000 career points.