Union at state: Day 2 notes

Under pressure

Rainier Beach’s defensive pressure was the biggest concern of Union boys basketball coach Maco Hamilton heading into Thursday’s quarterfinal game at the 3A state tournament.

The Titans were challenged at times by the Vikings’ pressure, but eventually passed with flying colors.

“Their pressure gave us problems at times,” Hamilton said. “But we talked about it halftime and made some adjustments. I thought we handled it better in the second half.”

Hamilton credited senior Chris Morgan with spearheading the Titans’ press break.

Union had even better success against the Vikings’ half-court trap in the second half, resulting in easy baskets for the Titans.

“We were able to break that trap down very well,” Hamilton said. “We actually had more trouble with their press than that trap.”

Deep Union

Hamilton said one of the Titans’ strengths is their ability to bring different players into the rotation and have those players contribute.

It was evident in Union’s decisive 15-1 run in the fourth quarter that sealed the win.

After Jamon Echols’ 3-pointer cut Union’s lead to 49-43 with 5:38 left, the outcome was still very much in doubt.

Then Kyle Holmes started the run with a free throw. Taylor Nelson converted from in the key to make it 52-43, and then added a pair of free throws.

Mitch Saylor’s inside basket made it 56-43, and Holmes’ 3-point play pushed the lead to 16 with 2:59 left.

“We got contributions from a lot of different people,” Hamilton said. “That’s why we’ve been able to play so many guys.”

More hardware

Thursday’s win assured Union of playing for a trophy on Saturday for the second year in a row.

“It’s a great way to end a senior year,” said Mitch Saylor, who played in the Tacoma Dome in the state semifinals in football last fall.

Rematch with Lakes

Lakes of Lakewood will present many of the same challenges in Friday’s semifinal as Rainier Beach did on Thursday.

“Lakes is very athletic and they bring the pressure,” Hamilton said. “We beat them at the bi-district last week, and we beat them last year, too. So they’re going to be looking for us.”

Hamilton said Lakes is not as tall as Rainier Beach and the Lancers don’t have the reach that the Vikings had. But they do have a special player in senior guard Andre Winston Jr. Winston, who averages 16.5 points a game, has signed to play for James Madison University.

“Andre Winston Jr. is a special player,” Hamilton said. “He may be the best player we’ve faced all season. He’s definitely going to create some matchup problems for us.”

Despite taking an elbow to the cheek that opened a gash in the final five minutes of Lakes’ 74-61 win over Glacier Peak on Thursday, Winston finished with a tournament-high 36 points.

“He is one of the best players we’ve seen all year,” Glacier Peak coach Chad McGuire told the Tacoma News Tribune. “He’s a legitimate Division I player.”

Winston scored 25 in Lakes’ 76-68 loss to Union in the bi-district tournament on March 2.

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