ELMA — The 2014 portion of the 2013-14 boys basketball season has been Hoquiam’s time to shine.
Evan Newton scored 23 points as the Grizzlies took sole possession of the Evergreen 1A League boys lead with a surprisingly decisive 70-55 conquest of Elma on Tuesday night at Elma.
The Grizzlies (6-0, 8-5) have won six straight and eight of their last nine. The loss was the first for Elma (7-4 overall) in six league starts.
For all its recent success, this was likely Hoquiam’s finest performance of the season.
The question entering the contest was whether the visitors could handle Elma’s normally formidable defensive pressure. Newton, abetted on occasion by Jerod Steen and Devin Kelly, answered that quickly by consistently beating the Eagle press and dishing to open teammates, although the Grizzlies didn’t always convert those opportunities.
“He did a wonderful job against their press and ultimately it backfired on Elma because we got easy baskets,” HHS coach Curtis Eccles said.
Newton, who was credited with five assists, also was adept at both taking the ball to the hoop or spotting up for perimeter jumpers.
“He was really the X factor in the game, without question,” Eccles said.
Hoquiam post Blake Kelly, meanwhile, ruled the paint. The athletic 6-foot-3 senior finished with 14 points, 17 rebounds and five blocked shots as the Grizzlies owned a 47-23 rebounding bulge.
Typifying Hoquiam’s control of the glass was one first-half possession in which the Grizzlies missed four close-in shots and Newton hit a 3-pointer on the fifth attempt.
Eagle guard Ryan Collin led all scorers with 25 points. Collin and senior classmate Ray Stark had some success on drives, but Elma’s perimeter game was all but non-existent. The Eagles shot only 29 percent from the field.
Elma coach Marvin Prince bemoaned his club’s shot selection and defensive rebounding, but said his team’s problems went deeper.
“What it came down to, in the second half, was they wanted it more than us. And that’s on us (the coaching staff),” Prince said. “I didn’t prepare the kids well. Learn and grow.”
For a half, this contest shaped up as a barnburner. The Harbor rivals were deadlocked at 27-all following a fast-paced first half that featured three ties and five lead changes.
The Grizzlies then settled matters with a 26-point third quarter.
After Newton opened the second half by scoring off a drive, Steen drove and dished to Blake Kelly for another lay-in and Joel Brydon converted a putback. Then Steen fed Devin Kelly for a lay-in and knocked down a three-ball from the right wing for a 38-27 lead at the 5:10 mark of the quarter.
Another Steen trey made it 51-33 with 1:58 left in the period. Hoquiam led by as many as 21 in the fourth quarter.
One of three freshmen to see significant playing time for the Grizzlies, Steen wound up with 12 points. Jace Varner, another ninth-grader, was cited by Eccles for fine play.
Stark had 12 points and Tyson Nauman 10 for Elma.
The Grizzlies will host Aberdeen in the second trans-Myrtle Street battle on Friday at Hoquiam Square Garden. The Eagles entertain Forks the same night.
Hoquiam 11 16 26 17 — 70
Elma 10 17 11 17 — 55
Hoquiam (70) — B. Kelly 14, Newton 23, D. Kelly 4, Steen 12, Brydon 5, Anderson, Varner 8, Adams 4, White, Oliver. FG — 26-57 (.456). FT — 13-20.
Elma (55) — Collin 25, Nauman 10, Stark 12, Lorton 3, Bremer 2, Neary 1, Davis, Emerson 2, Gilman, Osgood. FG — 17-58 (.293). FT — 15-19.
JV — Elma 50, Hoquiam 23. Kolton Emerson 15 points for Hoquiam.