More Union notes from state title
Hope you all got a chance to watch Union’s 51-50 victory over Enumclaw on television Sunday night. The telecast was replayed on FSN. Well, it was replayed at my house because I have satellite TV, so it was on my TV live Saturday night. (Well, I assume it was. I was in Tacoma, watching the game in person, of course.) However, for those of you who have cable, the game was not on live. Remember, Southwest Washington, according to some cable TV execs, is just a part of Oregon. Or so it would seem.
Anyway, Union’s victory from Saturday night was shown again Sunday night. I’m sure the Titans were watching, and even though they knew the ending, nothing was spoiled.
So with the replay in the background on my DVR, I came up with another notes package from Saturday night. These are things that did not get in the game story nor in the follow-up story for Monday’s paper.
Fourth-quarter hero before the last-second heroics:
We all know about Chris Morgan’s clutch free throws with 8.4 seconds remaining, but remember, the Titans trailed by nine points going into the final period. They needed a lot of help to get in position to take the lead.
Kyle Holmes got the comeback started with his aggressive play early in the period.
Holmes, who averages more than 10 points per game, was held scoreless through the first three periods. But he took command of the fourth quarter with a strong move in the key for his first two points. The next time down the floor, he attacked the rim again. He missed, but was in position to tip-in his own shot. Another big body, Taylor Nelson, would not be denied on Union’s next possession, making it a 6-0 run for Union.
Enumclaw, however, would sustain that rush and get the next four points for a seven-point lead.
Holmes, though, came back with another monster move to make it 47-42. Holmes is listed at 6-1, but he has a strong body and is not afraid to crash it against bigger, taller opponents to get to the rim. Almost Charles Barkley-like, but with more muscle.
Holmes said he knew he hadn’t scored in the game, but he was trying to do other things, such as boxing out and playing defense. He ended up with six rebounds and three steals. And he remained patient on offense. In fact, he had only taken two shots in those first three quarters.
“I managed to get the ball in the fourth quarter, and I got it into the hoop,” Holmes said.
Sounds simple, but against a tough Enumclaw defense, it was not.
His points did get Union going in the right direction, and the other Titans got the job done on offense the rest of the way.
Not that anyone should have been surprised by the fourth quarter Saturday night. Union owned clutch time in Tacoma.
In Game 1 against North Central, Union shook off a tough first quarter to get a halftime lead. Then the Titans outscored North Central 30-25 in the second half, including 18-16 in the fourth quarter for a nine-point victory.
In Game 2 against Rainier Beach, Union outscored the Vikings 23-15 in the fourth quarter, pulling away for a 15-point victory.
In Game 3 against Lakes, Union won the fourth quarter 16-15. Not dominating, but considering it was tied going into the fourth quarter, it was just about perfect for the Titans and their one-point victory.
And in Game 4 of the tournament, the championship game, Union outscored the undefeated and top-ranked Hornets 17-7, erasing that nine-point deficit.
So, to recap, Union went 4-0 in the tournament and won all four of the fourth quarters by a combined score of 74-53.
Taylor Nelson said it was more than just basketball skills, basketball plays, on display Saturday night in that final period.
“I think most of the fourth quarter was just heart,” Nelson said. “We just picked up the energy. It was really the effort that we gave that really won it.”
Ladies and gentlemen, your leading scorer in the state championship game, Caleb Whalen:
“I was? Oh my God. You’ve got to be kidding me,” Whalen said, about five minutes after the final horn.
Chris Morgan, the team’s leading scorer, struggled with his shooting all night — until those final free throws, of course — and the rest of the Titans filled the void.
Holmes got that burst of points in the fourth quarter. Garett Speyer hit a 3-pointer in the third quarter to stop some Enumclaw momentum. Vishal Sanghera will go down as a folk hero for his two 3-pointers in this tournament, including one in the championship game about 4.9 seconds after checking into the game, or so it seemed.
There was Mitch Saylor, hobbling on a bad wheel, still knocking down a 3-pointer in the third period. He would finish with seven points. Tanner Nelson scored five, including the bucket that tied the score at 47 with 2:24 left in the game.
But it was Whalen, one of the glue guys that every winning team needs, the guy who does not have to score to have an impact, who ended up in double figures for the Titans. Whalen went 3 for 5 from the floor, including his team’s final field goal, the one that cut the deficit to one point at 50-49. He also was 5 of 6 from the free throw line.
“I can’t even process this,” Whalen said. “I’m just so happy for the guys. We worked so hard. Everyone contributed.”
Truly a team effort:
Union got off to a slow start on offense, but the Titans withstood Enumclaw’s initial rush with defense of their own.
And then Union got a lift from its bench.
Taylor Nelson hit back-to-back buckets to end the first period, getting Union to within two points. Tanner Nelson connected on a 3-pointer to open the second quarter for Union’s first lead. Then, after an Enumclaw basket, Austin Candanoza scored to give the lead back to Union. That was nine points in a row from the Union reserves.
Again, nothing surprising here. This is another reason the Titans are the state champions — team depth.
Union ended up with a 16-2 edge in bench scoring in the title game and also led the tournament in bench scoring with 71. That’s nearly 18 points a game.
Don’t call them Choir Boys:
Mitch Saylor was asked what it’s like to be part of Union’s first state championship.
He quickly reminded the reporter that it was the first sports team title for Union.
“It’s awesome,” he said. “We’re still one behind choir.”
The Select Men’s Ensemble at Union has won back-to-back state titles.
Take that, hoopsters!
Winning when it matters:
Union became the first team to win the Class 3A state title with nine losses since Franklin accomplished the feat in 1994. The Titans lost a lot of early games when four of their players were late to the team because of football season.
“We didn’t have all of our guys,” Caleb Whalen said. “We started gelling in the (league) season. We kept it going through regionals and then the state tournament.”
“Our season started on Jan. 11,” Chris Morgan said. “That’s the day we played our first league game.”
From that day, Union went 14-4, including 4-0 in the only week that it mattered to go 4-0.
Keep doing what works:
For the second consecutive game, the Union Titans had to play solid defense, make a stop, and get the rebound before they would have an opportunity to win. And for the second consecutive game, the Titans did the work on defense, got the ball back, then did not call a timeout. Instead, they forced the tempo.
In Friday’s semifinals, Chris Morgan raced up the court, only to be closed in on by two defenders. Morgan threw a high, long pass to Mitch Saylor, who buried a jumper in the key with 10 seconds left for the one-point victory over Lakes.
In Saturday’s championship, Morgan grabbed the defensive rebound with 18 seconds remaining, dribbled at a fast walk for a couple of seconds, then went into attack mode. He made a move to the basket and was hacked by an Enumclaw defender with 8.4 seconds remaining. Of course, Morgan made the free throws. If he hadn’t, you wouldn’t be reading this blog entry.
Morgan and the Titans also love how their coach tells them to go make a play, not worry about a timeout.
Well, in Saturday’s game, there was another reason for the decision.
Sure, in Friday’s game, coach Maco Hamilton said he wanted the kids to make the play. It’s not a coach’s game. The game is for the players.
But Saturday, Hamilton said no to a timeout because it would have only helped Enumclaw.
“Enumclaw’s defense is so good,” he said. “If I called a timeout, that would have let them set up.”
Another perfect call from a coach who had a perfect week.
Another scary ending:
Just like Friday, the Titans still had to wait for the result of another last-second shot before they could celebrate a Saturday win.
After Morgan’s free throws, Enumclaw’s Riley Carel drove to the left side of the arc and launched a 3-pointer that bounced off the rim. It missed, but Enumclaw’s Ben Waters grabbed the rebound and threw up a shot as the horn sounded. That difficult shot was not close and it still is not clear if he got the shot off before the horn.
Morgan saw Carel’s initial shot and was not worried.
“It was a tough shot,” Morgan said. “Right when it went up, it was off.”
“I think I have gray hairs,” Mitch Saylor said. “So would Maco, if he had any hair.”
Crazy close boxscore:
Not sure if I have ever seen a stat sheet quite like this. Oh sure, close games usually mean close statistics. Yet this is kind of freaky.
Union was 18 of 52 from the floor. Enumclaw was 17 of 52.
Union was 5 of 17 from 3-point range. Enumclaw was 4 of 14.
Each team missed six free throws. Enumclaw made 12, Union 10.
Each team had 16 offensive rebounds, each team had 22 defensive rebounds, and each team, duh, had a total of 38 rebounds.
Enumclaw was whistled for 17 fouls; there were 15 on Union.
Union had seven assists, Enumclaw had six.
Union had 12 turnovers, Enumclaw had 11.
Both teams blocked three shots.
Union had seven steals, Enumclaw had eight.
Union got big advantages in bench scoring, had 13 points off turnovers to Enumclaw’s seven, and Union also had two more second-chance points.
Here are my notes from the final quarter.
7:41: Kyle Holmes scores on an inside move, 36-43.
7:20: Enumclaw misses two free throws.
6:50: Holmes follows his own miss with a tip-in bucket, 38-43.
6:33: After an Enumclaw turnover, Taylor Nelson bulls his way into the lane and makes a contestest lay-up, 40-43.
6:15: Jayson Lewis of Enumclaw makes two free throws, 40-45.
5:47: Tarren VanTrojen of Enumclaw scores on baseline move, 40-47.
5:25: Kyle Holmes pulls off another Charles Barkley-like move, 42-47.
A missed shot by Enumclaw is followed by a turnover by the Titans, then two missed shot by Enumclaw, setting up …
4:30: Caleb Whalen grabs an offensive rebound and is fouled. He buries two free throws, 44-47.
The teams combine to miss the next five shots, setting up …
2:51: Chris Morgan makes 1 of 2 free throws, 45-47.
2:24: After an Enumclaw miss, Tanner Nelson scores in traffic from in the key, 47-47.
2:10: Jayson Lewis of Enumclaw responds with a traditional three-point play, 47-50.
1:47: Caleb Whalen grabs another offensive rebound. This time, he puts it back up for a score, 49-50.
Enumclaw misses its next shot. Chris Morgan chases down a long rebound. There are timeouts with 1:19 to play, and again at 1:07 to play. Union then misses its next shot, with the Hornets grabbing the rebound with 54 seconds remaining. Enumclaw takes a long shot just before the shot clock expires. It misses, and Morgan grabs his ninth rebound of the game with 18 seconds left.
0:08.4: Morgan is fouled driving to the hoop. He makes the first free throw to tie the game before an Enumclaw timeout. He comes back after the break and swishes another. 51-50.
0:00: Enumclaw misses contested 3-point shot, and offensive rebound and putback fails to go in, as well. Game over. Union 51-50.
Union was 6 of 13 from the floor in the quarter and 5 of 6 from the free throw line. Enumclaw was 2 of 13 from the floor, 3 of 5 from the line.