Tigers Win Battle Atop League Standings, Unseat Pirates at LCC


LONGVIEW — This season, at least so far, has been a long time coming for the 2B No. 5 Napavine girls basketball team. 

After a few down years battling through the middle of the standings — and typically losing to the top league contenders — the Tigers followed up a signature season victory over No. 4 Rainier last week with their biggest win in years, defeating No. 3 Adna 53-42 at the MLK Classic at Lower Columbia College Monday. 

Trailing by six at the half, the Tigers saw the deficit rise all the way to eight before a slow fight and crawl to victory over the game’s final 12 minutes. Napavine trailed 35-27 with 3:59 to go in the third quarter, and wouldn’t allow the Pirates to make another shot the rest of the way. 

Though the Pirates made a couple freebies, Napavine went on a 25-7 run over the course of the final 11:59 to beat the Pirates for the first time since 2018. 

“If you want that respect, you have to take it from them,” Tigers coach Shane Schutz said. “They’re not going to hand it to you. Tonight I didn’t feel like we always played well, but we fought and clawed. I think we’re going to see them again at some point. We know this is just round one of many more opportunities, but I’m proud of these kids for fighting.”

After knocking down six of their 15 3-point attempts in the first half, the well dried up for the Pirates, and the Tigers prevented them from getting into any offense Monday night in the fourth quarter. 

The Pirates turned the ball over 16 times over the course of the game, and shot just 21.4% in the second half. 

“We put everything on defense,” Schutz said. “When you talk about winning championships, you have to be able to defend. That’s been our staple and the kids have locked in. We get energized when other teams get frustrated, you can see that they’re just building off of that.”

Even still, despite the large run, some late offense was needed to pull out the win. The Pirates fought back at the free throw line in the final moments to make it 47-43 in the fourth, but back-to-back shots from Tiger senior Morgan Hamilton — including a banked-in 3-pointer — helped Napavine pull away for the win. 

Hamilton led the scoring effort with 18 points, Hayden Kaut scored 10, and the Tigers collectively had 16 offensive rebounds.

“This is the first time we’ve really been shoved around in league,” Adna coach Chris Bannish said. “They play nine-deep, it wore on us late. They have kids that work their butts off and you saw that in the fourth quarter. There are some things we can do defensively that could’ve helped us.

“I think it was fatigue, I really do. That’s on us. We have got to be better with the ball.”

The Pirates shot well in the first half and halfway into the third, with Brooklyn Loose leading the Pirates with 11 points and Gaby Guard dropping 10. 

But a slew of messed up sets and turnovers in the fourth quarter prevented any chance of staying unbeaten in league play, and gives the Tigers a clear path at a league championship and a first-round bye in the district tournament as the top seed. 

For Schutz, that journey started well before this season. 

“It’s all the kids that have started this rebirth,” Schutz said. “The kids that turned out. I told them they are going to be the reason we eventually become successful. We’ve had some special kids who have graduated that have helped us get here.”

The Pirates (13-2, 8-1 C2BL) will face another stiff test against Rainier at home on Wednesday, while the Tigers (14-2, 9-0 C2BL) take on defending league champion Wahkiakum in Cathlamet.