The final meeting of the season between rivals Aberdeen and Hoquiam will be marked by an intensely played contest that turned at the free-throw line and nearly went into overtime.
Host Hoquiam led for all but 40 seconds of the contest and withstood a furious Aberdeen rally in the second half at the free-throw line to escape with a 45-42 non-league boys basketball win at Hoquiam Square Garden on Friday night.
Zack Ball and Collin Nord led all scorers with 13 points each, with Ball pulling down 13 rebounds and Nord 10, for Aberdeen. Joel Brydon led a very balanced Hoquiam team with nine points.
“Aberdeen did a phenomenal job to get back into it in the second half, hitting their shots and playing tough,” HHS head coach Curtis Eccles said. “There are going to be more games like this, where we have to learn how to fight through the adversity and come away with the win.”
“It was a great game, a great win by Hoquiam and I think Aberdeen gave them a heck of a game,” AHS head coach Leonard Barnes said. “I thought our intensity, our teamwork and defensive work was good in the second half. I thought the kids played great basketball. Give Hoquiam credit, they battled their butts off in the final 3-4 minutes and it turned into a great finish.”
With Hoquiam (4-1) leading 39-34, Aberdeen’s defense forced a timeout with 2:33 left in the contest. The Grizzlies couldn’t convert, setting up a key two-possession series for the Bobcats (1-4). Off a give-and-go from post Ball, guard Veek Cheema hit a 3-point basket from the corner for a 39-37 score with 2:11 left.
Following an Aberdeen timeout and a missed Hoquiam shot, Cheema got the ball in transition and hit another 3-pointer from the wing for the Bobcats’ first — and only — lead at 40-39 with 1:47 remaining.
On Hoquiam’s next possession after the Cheema trey, post Joel Brydon hit a mid-range jumper in traffic to give the Grizzlies the lead back at 41-40 with 1:07 left. From there, the Grizzlies hit two straight two-shot free throws — one each from Ronnie Espedal and David Sandstrom. Sandwiched in between the free-throw tries was an offensive rebound putback by Nord off a Cheema 3-point miss.
After Sandstrom’s free throws, Aberdeen got two tries for the tie, down 45-42. Charlie Dietrich’s shot from the wing hit the iron hard, but came back to Nord, who found Cheema for a 3-point try. That try missed, leading to a scramble and a long throw to Devin Kelly downcourt. Kelly was fouled with 4 seconds left. Kelly missed both free throws, setting up one last Bobcat try.
Ball got the rebound off the second free-throw miss, dished to Cheema, who weaved around traffic to just past the mid-court line and launched a buzzer-beating trey. The ball hit the back of the iron to ignite a Hoquiam celebration.
Hoquiam led 28-19 at halftime, thanks to its dominance in the second quarter. The hosts kept the lead and held off the visitors by hitting 9-of-17 attempts from the charity stripe in the second half. Aberdeen was 0-2 from the line. Overall, the Grizzlies finished 14-for-27 from the line, while the Bobcats walked away with a 4-for-12 mark.
“David Sandstrom hitting all of his free throws was huge,” Eccles added. “Espedal hitting those last free throws was also huge. Aberdeen was about an inch away from sending this game into overtime. My hats off to our guys for fighting through the adversity and to come back to win. Our whole team really came through at the end.”
Aberdeen’s plan to get inside the paint with Nord and Ball found some trouble in the first half, in particular the second quarter. Hoquiam led 14-9 after one quarter, then took advantage of the Bobcats’ foul trouble inside to extend the lead to as much as 13, 24-11 with 3:40 left in the half.
Ball finally found a little room on the block in the final minutes of the half, scoring three straight post jumpers to give Aberdeen a bit of life going into halftime. Hoquiam scattered its points throughout the lineup, with nine players getting onto the score sheet and five of them hitting from the free-throw line.
On Tuesday, Aberdeen begins Evergreen 2A play by traveling to Black Hills. On Wednesday, Hoquiam visits North Beach.
Abe 9 10 11 12 — 42 Hoq 14 14 6 11 — 45
Aberdeen (42) — Nord 13, Taylor 3, Fairchild 7, Ball 13, Cheema 6, Dietrich, Williamson, Schlesser, Chandler. FG — 17-48. FT — 4-12.
Hoquiam (45) — Sandstrom 7, Espedal 6, Lorton 2, Newton 5, Kelly 4, Parker 3, Smith 7, Guined 2, Brydon 9. FG — 15-50 (.300). FT — 14-27.
JV — Aberdeen 57, Hoquiam 33. Addam Follett 20 points and Cole Edwards 16 points for AHS.
C Squad — Aberdeen 41, Hoquiam 11. Juan Renteria 10 points, 13 rebounds for AHS.