Tigers hand cold-shooting Grizzlies first loss

There were no parting gifts for Ron Brown this time at Hoquiam Square Garden, particularly after his Centralia team handed the Grizzly boys their first loss.

Taking command in the second half, the superbly balanced Tigers topped the cold-shooting Grizzlies, 55-40, in a non-league boys basketball game Wednesday night.

Hoquiam officials had honored Brown during the Grizzlies’ final season in the Evergreen 2A Conference in 2010, on the assumption that would be the longtime Centralia coach’s farewell Garden appearance.

Entering his 52nd season at the helm, however, Brown was still on the bench when the two schools renewed their rivalry in a non-leaguer.

All five starters scored in double figures as the Tigers improved their season record to 3-0. Junior guards Patrick Neely and Baylor Scott shared team honors with 12 points apiece.

This game, though, was won primarily on the defensive end. Unable to consistently go inside against Centralia’s switching man-to-man defense, the Grizzlies (3-1) could not connect from the perimeter. They shot only 22 percent from the field.

Senior guard David Sandstrom was Hoquiam’s lone double-digit scorer with 13 points.

“I thought we had some open looks that we didn’t drop,” HHS coach Curtis Eccles said. “It was one of those games where a couple of kids didn’t get hot. But it was also them, because they’re a great defensive team.”

“We talked about coming to the Harbor and playing good defense and rebounding, give yourself a chance to win on the road, and we did that,” Brown related.

Hoquiam’s man-to-man also wasn’t bad, at least in the first half. Up by as many as six in the early going, the Grizzlies grabbed a 21-20 halftime lead when Evan Newton put down a driving scoop shot a split second before the buzzer.

Maxx Waring hit a short bank shot and a 3-pointer from the left wing in the opening three minutes of the second half to put Centralia in front to stay.

Hoquiam’s Ronnie Espedal knocked down a three from the top of the key to narrow the deficit to 25-24.

The Grizzlies then iced over completely in their shooting, while the Tigers were able to shake free on give-and-go plays and cuts to the hoop. Centralia went on a 16-2 run for the remainder of the third quarter to put things away.

Hoquiam post Cole Smith collected nine rebounds and three blocked shots.

Ball-handling was one bright spot for the Grizzlies, who committed only nine turnovers.

“This is the first test we’ve had against a good team,” related Brown, whose team’s previous wins came over Class 3A North Thurston and 2A R.A. Long.

The Grizzlies host rival Aberdeen on Friday.

Cen 10 10 21 14 — 55

Hoq 11 10 5 14 — 40

Centralia (55) — Scott 12, Neely 12, Waring 10, Tasby 10, Baumann 11, Kerner, Blaser, Jackson, Housden, Studeman. FG — 23-44 (.523). FT — 5-6.

Hoquiam (40) — Sandstrom 13, Espedal 6, Newton 7, Smith 6, Brydon 3, Guined 2, Ventar 1, Parker 2, Kelly, Lorton. FG — 15-69 (.217). FT — 5-8.

JV — Centralia 46, Hoquiam 38. Jake Oliver 14 points for Hoquiam.