Hoquiam boys fall short in district semis

CHEHALIS – Hoquiam’s hopes for securing a regional berth will have to wait until Wednesday.

Trailing by as many as 10 in the second half, the Grizzlies rallied to tie the game midway through the fourth quarter before falling to Kalama, 57-49 in a District IV winner-to-state game Saturday afternoon at Chehalis High School.

The Grizzlies (18-4) will face Evergreen League champion Tenino on Wednesday in a winner-to-state, loser-out game at a time and site to be determined.

Unleashing a suffocating full-court pressure defense, Kalama scored the game’s first six points and led 14-4 less than three minutes into the first quarter.

Hoquiam clawed its way back into the game with a Ronnie Espedal 3-pointer to close the first period and a Devin Kelly three-ball to open the second, bringing the Grizzlies to within three at 19-16 early in the second.

An Espedal layin brought the Grizzlies to within two at the 4:30 mark in the first half but the Chinooks responded with a 12-5 spurt to close out the first half ahead 34-25.

The second half started ominously for the Grizzlies when Elijah Bannister opened the third quarter with a corner three for Kalama pushing its lead to 12. However, Hoquiam responded with its best offensive display of the game.

Cole Smith drained three buckets in the paint and Espedal buried a pair of threes as Hoquiam rallied to tie the game at 43-all with 2:55 left in the third.

Jarrod Neiman opened Kalama’s fourth quarter with a third-chance putback to put the Chinooks up four.

Hoquiam tied it back it up at 49-all after Devin Kelly hit Smith rolling to the basket and Espedal sank a 15-footer with 5:24 left in the game.

Those would be the last points for the Grizzlies.

A Neiman rebound and putback off a missed free throw pushed the Chinooks up for good and free throws from Bannister and Tanner Vossen it put it on ice.

“We battled. They’re ranked anywhere from fourth to sixth in state depending on who you ask, and we did a great job,” said Hoquiam coach Curtis Eccles. “We gave up a lot of second-and third-chance baskets and that may have been the difference.”

Eccles was accurate in that assessment. Kalama held a slight 34-31 advantage on the glass, but 15 of those rebounds were of the offensive variety.

Playing a role in the rebound disparity was the foul trouble of Smith.

The 6-foot-6 senior drew three fouls in the second quarter and his fourth less than a minute into the final frame but still managed to lead the Grizzlies with nine boards.

Espedal paced Hoquiam with 15 points.

Kalama was led by 16 points from Neiman. Josh Wall, Kalama’s point guard that came into the game averaging nearly 20 points a game, chipped in 12.

Evan Newton and Devin Kelly came off the bench to give the Grizzlies good minutes on the defensive end.

“My guys will battle back. It’s on the line with Tenino, we split in the regular season and it’s going to be a great game to see what team goes onto regionals,” Eccles signed off.

Tenino kept its season alive with a 51-37 win over Forks earlier in the day.

Hoq 13 12 20 4 — 49 Kal 19 15 13 10 — 57

Hoquiam (49) – Sandstrom 1, Espedal 15, Lorton 3, Netwon 7, D. Kelly 2, Smith 14, Boulden 6. FG – 19-51 (.373). FT – 4-6.

Kalama (57) – Bannister 8, Gates 3, Neiman 16, Wall 12, Shagool 7, Gates 3, Vossen 9, Freeman 2. FG – 22-62 (.355). FT – 5-8.