Fired up by Senior Night festivities, Hoquiam came out smoking on offense and left rival Elma behind early on Thursday night.
Hitting from the perimeter and smothering the boards on both ends of the court, the Grizzlies never allowed the Eagles a chance to threaten their undefeated league record in a 72-53 Evergreen 1A League win at Hoquiam Square Garden.
Hoquiam (12-0, 15-5), winners of 13 straight games dating back to a 73-34 loss to Morton-White Pass at Raymond’s New Year’s Classic on Dec. 27, will enter the District IV 1A tournament as the league’s top seed.
Elma (9-3, 11-8) will join Hoquiam in the district tournament bracket on Feb. 14 as the league’s No. 2 seed.
“We’re not going to change much in practice (going into the district tournament),” HHS head coach Curtis Eccles said. “These guys have done a great job of just focusing on the day-to-day work they need to accomplish. This was one of those great team efforts tonight. Everyone from top to bottom contributed to the victory.”
“Hats off to Hoquiam; they’re a good team,” Elma head coach Marvin Prince said. “It is a whole new season now. We’re 0-0. I’m proud of the kids. We qualified for the district tournament outright and that was one of our goals this season. The kids have a lot to be proud of.”
Two Hoquiam upperclassmen stepped up to the front to give the home partisans something to cheer about on Senior Night — junior Evan Newton and senior Jake Oliver. In the first half, Newton took the wheel of the Grizzly offense.
With dribble drives and mid-range jumpers, Newton knocked down 12 of his 17 points in the first half. He also dished out four of his six assists and finished with a double-double at 10 rebounds.
The rebounding was part of the key to Hoquiam unlocking Elma’s game plan. The Grizzlies forced the Eagles’ interior players — Chance Bremer, Austin Neary and Tyson Nauman — to defend away from the basket, thanks to long-range shooting by Newton, Oliver, Blake Kelly (seven points, 11 rebounds, 3 steals), Devin Kelly (six points, five assists) and Jerod Steen.
With the big men away, the gaps opened up for offensive-rebound putbacks and second- and third-chance opportunities for Hoquiam. This powered the hosts to a 20-12 first-quarter lead and helped maintain the advantage for a 35-24 halftime lead.
“We talked about this at the start — we can’t let them shoot threes and we can’t give up rebounds,” Prince said. “That’s the two things that hurt us. We slowed their transition game down, but in the half-court, we didn’t guard the shooters. Oliver, he got going and Steen, as a freshman, will be a handful.”
Staying in its half-court offense, Hoquiam lit up the perimeter in the second half — seven of the Grizzlies’ 10 three-point baskets came in the second half. Oliver led the team in that department, draining six of them for a game-high 18 points.
The senior drained back-to-back treys inside the first minute of the third quarter for a 43-26 lead. Prince called timeout, got his team back on track when Ray Stark single-handily trimmed the deficit to 43-34 with 5:04 left — a personal 8-0 run.
Oliver responded with his third 3-pointer of the quarter to push the lead into double-digits, 46-34, and Elma never got closer for the rest of the game. Both teams emptied their benches midway through the fourth quarter.
Devon Gilman led Elma in scoring with 16 points, 13 of them in the second half.
“We had some guys hit some shots, our transition game picked up and we moved the ball really well in the half-court set,” Eccles said. “I thought Oliver did a phenominal job of hitting his shots, which he’s known to do. It helped we were aggressive on rebounding and that was a key as well.”
Seniors Oliver, Blake Kelly, Devin Kelly, Joel Brydon and Jaron Rose were honored prior to the contest.
Elma 12 12 13 16 — 53
Hoquiam 20 15 18 19 — 72
Elma (53) — Collin 7, Nauman 4, Stark 8, Lorton 2, Osgood, Gilman 16, Emerson 6, Bremer 9, Hamilton, Davis, Neary 2. FG — 18-54 (..333). FT — 11-19.
Hoquiam (72) — Oliver 18, B. Kelly 7, Newton 17, D. Kelly 6, White, Steen 9, Adams 7, Varner 2, Standstipher 2, Anderson 2, Brydon 2, Rose. FG — 29-67 (.433). FT — 4-12.
JV — Hoquiam 37, Elma 26.