ELMA — Hoquiam knew Elma would give them everything on Wednesday night and the Grizzlies needed everyone available to get past the Eagles on their home floor.
With three players out due to illness and injury and senior post Cole Smith out of the game due to fouls early in the fourth quarter, Hoquiam literally emptied its bench to hold off a spirited Elma squad, 60-49, in Evergreen 1A boys basketball play.
David Sandstrom led all scorers with 20 points and four steals for Hoquiam. Ronnie Espedal added 12 points for the Grizzlies.
Chance Bremer and Ray Stark led Elma with 14 points each, with Bremer pulling down 12 rebounds. Ryan Collin added 11 for the Eagles.
“We knew going in that this wasn’t going to be easy, because of our absences and because Elma is underrated,” HHS head coach Curtis Eccles said. “They are better than what their record says. We prepared that for the guys and that’s exactly what we got. We were fortunate enough to do some things at the end to win. It took every single player who was eligible to play to make this happen.”
“The difference of the game was that we turned the ball over in critical times in the second half,” Elma head coach Marvin Prince said. “Overall, that’s the kind of basketball, effort-wise, we need to see night in and night out. If we can play like that every single night, we’re not in the position we are in now. They scored 18 points off turnovers tonight. You have to handle the ball and we didn’t do that down the stretch.”
Hoquiam (4-1, 11-2) suited up just nine players and, as the game wore on, saw that number dwindle. Before the game, guard Evan Newton (illness) and forwards Devin Kelly (shoulder) and Joel Brydon (knee) were already ruled out for the contest.
The Grizzlies didn’t miss a beat in the first quarter, getting the ball inside to Smith and Alex Boulden for baskets and driving layups by Espedal, Sandstrom and Cody Parker (seven rebounds). A 20-13 lead after one quarter was the result, but the Eagles (1-4, 1-11) would not go quietly into that gentle night.
Starting with Bremer inside and Stark outside, Elma shot itself right back into the game. Bremer scored eight of his team-high 14 points in the second quarter and Stark nailed 2-of-3 3-point shots to give the hosts a 29-28 lead with 3:01 left in the half. Stark was 4-for-6 from behind the 3-point line in the first half.
Unfortunately for the Eagles, they went cold up until halftime. A Smith inside basket and two free throws from Blake Kelly in the final three minutes of the half gave Hoquiam a slim 32-29 halftime score.
The third quarter was pivotal for both teams — Hoquiam needed to establish itself, while Elma had to keep the pressure on the visitors. Smith picked up three quick fouls in the quarter and went to the bench with four overall. Boulden took over in the low post and the Grizzlies grinded with the Eagles in a defensive slugfest.
Collin hit two treys to keep Elma close as Hoquiam muscled its way to a 46-40 lead after three.
In the first minute of the fourth quarter, Smith fouled out on a missed shot and rebound, leaving the Grizzlies without their main inside threat. Boulden again stepped into the role down low and Sandstrom and Espedal stepped up.
The guard duo had two straight layups — Sundstrom on a drive to the basket and Espedal on a steal 10 seconds after Sundstrom’s basket — for a 50-40 lead. This forced Prince into an emphatic timeout to get his players back. The Eagles had nine of their 20 turnovers in the fourth quarter.
The quick baskets were the momentum killers for Elma, which traded baskets with Hoquiam for the remainder of the contest. Also included in the last frame were injuries to Espedal and to Boulden, forcing Eccles to empty the rest of his bench for the final 3-plus minutes of the contest.
Eccles cited Kelly for his contributions off the bench, Jaycob Guined for his play on offense and Sandstrom for overall play.
Today, Hoquiam hits the road to take on Forks. Elma will take the trek up to Forks on Friday.
Hoq 20 12 14 14 — 60 Elma 13 16 11 9 — 49
Hoquiam (60) — Sandstrom 20, Espedal 12, Lorton, Parker 6, Smith 8, Guined 2, Boulden 6, Kelly 4, Anderson. FG — 24-55 (.436). FT — 10-13.
Elma (49) — Collin 11, Farr 2, Nauman 4, Stark 14, Horton, Gray, Bremer 14, Wilson 4, Davis. FG — 19-52 (.365). FT — 4-7.
JV — Hoquiam 60, Elma 56. Jake Oliver 20 points for HHS. Kyle Smith 14 points for Elma.