Control of the paint in the final 12 minutes of the first half gave Hoquiam more than sufficient cushion in the first installment of this season’s boys basketball rivalry with Aberdeen.
Ending the half on a 27-4 run, the Grizzlies went on to put away the Bobcats, 63-41, in a non-league contest Friday night at Sam Benn Gym.
Grizzly floor leader Ronnie Espedal turned in a fine all-around effort. The senior guard led all scorers with 19 points— including eight in the fourth quarter to help subdue an Aberdeen mini-comeback — while also handing out eight assists.
Senior post Cole Smith contributed 15 points, eight rebounds, four assists, three steals and four blocked shots for Hoquiam (3-0). Junior forward Joel Brydon tallied 11 points despite seeing limited second-half action due to what was believed to be a sprained knee.
Senior guard Charlie Dietrich was the chief offensive weapon for the otherwise cold-shooting Bobcats (0-2). He knocked down four 3-pointers in tallying a team-high 16 points.
Two statistics particularly stood out in this fast-paced affair. The Grizzlies owned a 52-31 rebounding bulge with one of their shortest players — 5-foot-8 sophomore Evan Newton — pulling down 10.
Casting almost exclusively from long range in the first half, the Bobcats connected on only 4 of 21 field-goal attempts in that half before improving somewhat to a concluding .269 percentage.
“I think our shooting was a reflection of our shot selection,” AHS coach Leonard Barnes said. “We only had three assists as a team and that tells us we weren’t playing very good team basketball in the first half.”
Thanks to two Dietrich treys, the Bobcats nevertheless owned an 8-4 lead midway through the first quarter when the Grizzlies used their inside game to turn things around.
After Espedal buried a three of his own, Brydon connected on a turning jumper in the low blocks to give Hoquiam the lead for good. Smith hit from the baseline and Brydon converted a putback to make it 13-8 at the end of one quarter.
Getting second and third opportunities off offensive rebounds, the Grizzlies then blew it open when Smith, Newton, Jaycob Guined and Espedal combined for the final 11 points of the first half and a 31-12 advantage at intermission.
“I thought we were able to utilize our strength, which is our size, and get the ball down low to Joel and Cole,” HHS coach Curtis Eccles noted.
Aberdeen’s swarming defense gave the Grizzlies problems for the first 12 minutes of the second half. The Bobcats cut the margin to 11, 50-39, on Deon Schlesser’s conventional three-point play with 3:05 remaining.
Espedal, however, took control at that stage. After lobbing to Smith for a layin at the 2:56 mark, the senior guard added a basket and four free throws over the final 2:32 as the Grizzlies pulled away.
Guined, who filled Brydon’s role inside in the second half, drew Eccles’ post-game praise.
Barnes, who was happy with his team’s second-half performance, commended the play of reserves Deon Schlesser and Titus Phillips. Schlesser pulled down five offensive rebounds in the second half.
Aberdeen travels to Prairie on Monday. The Grizzlies host Centralia on Wednesday.
Hoq 13 18 15 17 — 63 Aber 8 4 17 12 — 41
Hoquiam (63) — Sandstrom 3, Espedal 19, Parker 2, Smith 15, Brydon 11, Guined 6, Kelly 2, Lorton, Newton 5, Erickson. FG — 24-55 (.436). FT — 12-18.
Aberdeen (41) — Dietrich 16, Cheema 5, Nord 7, Ball 3, Taylor 2, Fairchild, Floch, Williamson, Schlesser 5, Levao 1, Phillips, Edwards 2, Follett, Ontiveros. FG — 14-52 (.269). FT — 8-19.
JV — Aberdeen 49, Hoquiam 17. Addam Follett 12 points, Jacob Black 10 for Aberdeen.