Grizzlies fall to La Center

CHEHALIS — A.J. Myers scored 13 of his 20 points in the fourth quarter as La Center nipped Hoquiam, 68-66, to take third place in the District IV Class 1A Boys Basketball Tournament on Friday night at Chehalis.

With both teams already guaranteed trips to Mount Vernon for regional competition, Friday’s game was to determine a regional opponent.

Hoquiam (19-5) will face either Lynden Christian or Cedar Park Christian at 6 p.m. Saturday, with the winner advancing to the final eight at state beginning Feb. 28 at Yakima.

La Center owned a big advantage from the foul line, a disparity Hoquiam coach Curtis Eccles noted with displeasure. Making 8-of-11 free throws in the fourth quarter, the Wildcats were 15-of-22 from the stripe for the contest. Hoquiam attempted only seven free throws, making three.

The Grizzlies received most of their production inside. Posts Alex Boulden, Cole Smith and Blake Kelly tallied 16, 15 and 10 points, respectively. Senior guard Ronnie Espedal also scored 10 points.

“They did a phenomenal job inside,” Eccles said. “We just need to step it up defensively. They got a couple of second and third-opportunity shots, because we didn’t block out like we should have.”

Hoquiam led 27-22 at the half, but the Wildcats reduced the margin to one after three quarters.

The fourth quarter was a back-and-forth affair, with La Center finally taking control from the foul line.

The Wildcats hit clutch free throws to extend their lead to five before Espedal sank a 3-point shot at the buzzer.

Boulden, Smith and Kelly combined to hit 20-of-29 from the field. Smith led Hoquiam rebounders with 10.

Hoq 16 11 17 22 — 66

Lac 11 11 21 25 — 68

Hoquiam (66) — Boulden 16, Smith 15, B. Kelly 10, Newton 8, Espedal 10, Sandstrom 3, Lorton 2, Guined 2, D. Kelly. FG — 29-55 (.527). FT — 3-7.

La Center (68) — Myers 20, Aguirre 15, Arn 12, Braaten 8, Wonderly 6, King 4, VanTol 2, Brown 1. FG — 23-55 (.418). FT — 15-22.