KELSO —An early defensive switch paid long-term dividends for Hoquiam’s boys.
The chief dividend was another week of basketball.
Stymieing Tenino with a tough man-to-man defense, the Grizzlies nailed down a regional berth with a 46-31 victory in the District IV Class 1A boys basketball tournament Wednesday night at Kelso.
By eliminating the Evergreen 1A League champion Beavers in this loser-out contest, Hoquiam (19-4) is assured a place in regional competition Feb. 23 at Mount Vernon.
The Grizzlies will face La Center or Woodland in a regional seeding contest scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Friday at Chehalis.
Wednesday’s victory was not their smoothest offensive operation, although they boasted a balanced attack and made their first 13 free throws.
Doing most of his damage in the second half, senior post Cole Smith paced the winners with 12 points and 11 rebounds. Senior guards Ronnie Espedal and David Sandstrom added 10 points apiece, with the latter going 8-of-8 from the foul line.
Hoquiam, however, was plagued by 21 turnovers — including eight in the first quarter.
Defense was a different story. The Grizzlies limited the Beavers (17-6) to 10 field goals and 19 percent shooting from the floor.
“That’s probably one of our best defensive efforts to date,” Hoquiam coach Curtis Eccles asserted.
The turning point of the contest was easy to identify.
Tenino’s Gabe Egge hit two 3-point shots over the top of the Grizzly zone in the first quarter. The second one gave the Beavers an 8-0 lead and prompted Eccles to call time at the 4:11 mark of the period.
The Grizzlies returned to the floor in a man-to-man. From that point on, the complexion of the game changed drastically. Tenino seldom launched an open shot for the remainder of the game.
Evergreen 1A Most Valuable Player Devante Harris was among the Beavers most frustrated. Spending most of the first half on the bench after picking up two fouls in the opening 2:22, Harris never could get untracked in the final two quarters and finished with seven points.
Sandstrom drew the primary defensive duty on Harris, with assistance from Rashad Lorton and Devin Kelly.
Eccles said the Grizzlies played a zone effectively in their semifinal loss to Kalama last weekend and retained the option of going back to that defense last night.
“But when it’s not broken, we decided to not fix it,” he said.
After shifting to the man-to-man, the Grizzlies held the Beavers scoreless from the field for approximately 9 1/2 minutes while their offense slowly kicked into gear.
They took the lead at 11-10 on a pair of Sandstrom free throws with 5:18 remaining in the second quarter. Espedal followed with a three-ball (Hoquiam’s only three of the night), Lorton connected from the baseline and Jaycob Guined scored from underneath to make it 18-10 with 3:21 left in the half. The Grizzlies owned a 22-16 advantage at the half.
Hoquiam turnovers followed by Tenino missed shots was the theme for much of the third quarter. Then the Grizzlies began getting the ball inside to Smith with more regularity.
The 6-foot-6 two-time state high jump champion dominated the paint in the final 10 minutes, scoring 10 of his points and grabbing nine of his rebounds in the second half.
Two Smith buckets and Evan Newton’s rebound basket at the buzzer gave the Grizzlies a 34-21 bulge after three quarters. The Beavers never reduced the margin to single digits in the fourth period.
Newton provided considerable energy off the bench, scoring six points and handing out several assists.
Egge paced Tenino with 10 points.
Ten 10 6 5 10 — 31
Hoq 5 17 12 12 — 46
Tenino (31) — Hammond 3, Peterson 3, Conklin 6, D. Harris 7, Egge 10, Burch, Pier, B. Harris 7, Shaw 2, Hisaw, Engebreth. FG — 10-54 (.186). FT — 6-10.
Hoquiam (46) — Espedal 10, Lorton 4, Sandstrom 10, B. Kelly, Smith 12, Boulden 2, Guined 2, Newton 6, D. Kelly, Oliver, Standstipher, White. FG — 16-39 (.410). FT — 13-15.