TACOMA - The Tacoma Baptist (TBS) Crusaders boys, the 10th-ranked team in the state class 2B basketball poll, had been practically unbeatable on their home court, going 11-1 this season, prior to Saturday's showdown with the Naselle Comets. The two teams were tied for the Pacific League lead with 10-2 records coming into this game, but TBS had the tie-breaker because of a 59-51 win over the Comets at Naselle in the fifth game of the season on Dec. 15. That loss, incidentally, was the last time that the Comets lost a game to a similarly sized class 2B school.

This game, for the outright league lead, saw the Comets run away with the win by a 68-55 margin Saturday, Feb. 2, in the Crusaders gym. The Comets league record climbed to 11-2, 13-6 overall, with one league game left in the regular season. The Crusaders fell to 10-3 in league, 15-4 overall, and also have one game remaining. The win assured the Comets of at least a tie for the league championship as Tacoma Baptist and Northwest Christian each have three losses.

Naselle, just as in the first game against the Crusaders and in most of their games since then, had three players score in double digits. Austin Burkhalter led the Naselle scorers with 21 points, Nathan Sultemeier was right on his heels with 20 points and was 9-for-10 on his free throws, and Conor Smith had a double-double with 10 points and 14 rebounds, and he added 5 assists. The other four members of the Comets seven player rotation, Kyle Burkhalter with 6, Gabe See 5, Alan Erickson 4, Nick Hines 2, all added points to the Naselle total.

The Crusaders were also led by three double digit scorers: Barclay Tuell with 22 points, freshman point guard Isaiah Hamlin with 16, and Adam Mears with 10, who kept the Crusaders within hailing distance of the Comets. The other seven TB players provided seven points to the Crusaders total.

In contrast to their game early this season, where the Comets were playing catch-up throughout the game, Naselle took the lead early and led at all of the quarter stops in this one. Naselle had their best shooting game of the year at 63 percent on 22 fof 35 shooting, and they shot 65 percent from the charity stripe to help account for their wire-to-wire win.

The Comets led 18-11 after one quarter, 32-23 at the half, after a 14-12 second period. The Comets didn't ease off the throttle after the break, adding an 18-13 third period, to lead by as much as 20 points, and earn a 14 point lead, 50-36, after three periods. With the issue decided, the Crusaders outscored the Comets 19-18 in the fourth quarter as the Comets went home with their 13 point win.

Coach Brian Macy said, "We came out with good intensity and maintained it throughout the game. We played well as a team, it really didn't seem to matter what combination of players were on the floor; they stepped up and played well. We had a few players who were not 100 percent. After a stop on the way up two players got sick after eating, and another who's back has been bothering him, but they sucked it up and played very well.

"(We have) Another big game this Saturday which may change with tie-breaking scenarios (I don't know for sure). A win not only gives us the league title outright, but gives us the number one seed into the district tourney."

A win in the Comets one remaining league game, against Northwest Christian in Naselle's Lyle Patterson Gym tentatively scheduled for this Saturday, Feb. 9, after the girls game, will clinch the Pacific League title for the Comets. The boys game will conclude a day with four games as the girls and boys JVs and varsity teams will all see action against the Navigators.

A first place league finish would place the Comets in the Pacific League #1 position in the District IV 2B Tournament, giving them their first district game on Saturday, Feb. 16, at 8:00 p.m. in Montesano. The Comets opponent would be the winner of an earlier game, possibly played between South Bend and Mossyrock, depending on the final places in the Pacific and Central Leagues. A loss to NWC could put the Comets into a tie, possibly a three-way tie, for the league championship and the seeding in the district tournament. A loss in their final game will also bring all sorts of issues such as tie-breakers and a schedule to complete those activities.

Naselle 18 14 18 18 - 68

Tacoma Baptist 11 12 13 19 - 55

Naselle (68) - Austin Burkhalter 21, Nathan Sultemeier 20, Conor

Smith 10, K. Burkhalter 6, See 5, Erickson 4, N. Hines 2, J. Hines,

Macy, Mendoza; FG - 22-of-35 (63%), FT - 20-of-31 (65%); Rebounds:

Smith 14; Assists: Smith 5

Tacoma Baptist (55) - Barclay Tuell 22, Isaiah Hamlin 16, Adam Mears

10, Piwonski 4, Gillman 2, Aaron Mears 1, Yohann, Sims, Finley, Nrayan

Pacific League Boys (Top 6 teams qualify for tournament)

Team League Overall Games

W L W L

Behind

1. Naselle 11 2 13 6 --

2. Tacoma Baptist 10 3 15 4 1

3. NW Christian 9 3 13 4 1.5

4. North Beach 7 5 12 6 3

4. South Bend 7 5 10 8 3

6. Ocosta 4 8 9 9 6.5

Raymond 1 11 4 14 9

Willapa Valley 0 12 3 15 10

Comets boys win tenth league gameNASELLE - The first time that these two teams met in a Pacific League game four weeks ago, the Naselle Comets boys came home with a 21 point win over the South Bend Indians, largely earned on the 33 points scored by Austin Burkhalter and the 13 added by brother Kyle Burkhalter. This time when the two teams met Thursday, Jan 31, in Lyle Patterson Gym, Indians coach Jon Pearson had inserted a diamond-and-one defense that would hopefully limit the scoring of Austin with a defense devised to deny him the ball and preventing him having any clear looks at the rim.

It worked, for awhile, but someone forgot about Conor Smith. All that Smith did was score the first seven Naselle points and earn a double-double with a game-high 20 points and 11 rebounds in leading the Comets to a 70-50 win over the Indians. The Comets improved their league-leading record to 10-2, and 12-6 overall. South Bend dropped to 7-5 in league, and 10-8 overall.

Naselle coach Brian Macy said, "South Bend played very well, we had a difficult time with their diamond and one on Austin, but eventually figured it out. Nathan Sultemeier and Gabe See being able to knock down some three's helped the cause. I think we played well at times, but still haven't put it all together yet. Hopefully this tough end to our season (Seaside, South Bend, Tacoma Baptist and Northwest Christian) will prepare us for the district tourney."

Smith's 20 points led Naselle which had three double digit scorers. Austin Burkhalter added 17 points, with all but 13 of them coming in the second half, plus eight rebounds, and Kyle Burkhalter added 11 points, seven rebounds, and three assists in his usual top all around game. The other four players in the Comets seven man rotation provided solid support in scoring, rebounding, and defense.

Randy Eang and Chase Michell led the Indians attack with 15 points each. Their other top scorer, freshman David Lorton, in a starting line-up along with four seniors, only scored seven points before fouling out with 1:23 left in the third quarter. The combined defensive efforts of first Kyle and then Austin Burkhalter were instrumental in holding Lorton's scoring down.

With Smith scoring on his first three shots from close in, following assists by Kyle Burkhalter on two of the hoops, and on a Smith free throw, the Comets rolled to a 7-0 lead in the first three minutes of play. The Indians Michell finally got South Bend on the scoreboard with half of the quarter played. Kyle added a three point play and Alan Erickson scored on an offensive rebound and the Comets led 12-7 after one period with Austin not having taken a shot. However, Smith had picked up his second foul and was doing some pine time with over two minutes left in the period.

The Indians opened the second period with a David Lorton 3-ball before Austin finally got in the scorebook by connecting on two of two free throws 30 seconds into the period. The Indians were to get points from four of their shooters in the quarter, while the Comets were also getting points from four of their players, including a 3-ball from Gabe See. The Indians were able to cut the Naselle lead to one point twice at mid-quarter, but Naselle points from Kyle, Smith, See, and Austin were enough to keep the Comets lead after an Indian 19-15 quarter sent the teams in at the half with the Comets holding a 27-24 lead.

To this point, coach Pearson had to be pleased with his strategy. The Indians had held Austin to only four points and Kyle to six and the Indians were within three points of the league leaders. However, fouls and the subsequent free throws and timely shooting by the Comets were to prove to be hazardous to the Indians game plan.

Smith opened the third quarter with another hoop, just as he had opened the game. Austin followed with a deuce plus a free throw and another two pointer. When Nathan Sultemeier drilled his first 3-ball of the game, the Comets lead had suddenly jumped to ten points. Eang responded with five straight points, including another 3-ball. Nick Hines retaliated with a hoop and Sultemeier canned his second trey of the period. Kyle added a three point play on a deuce plus one and Austin connected on 2 of 2 freebies when he drew Lorton's fourth foul of the game. Seconds later, Kyle connected on another freebie off Lorton's fifth foul and Austin closed out the quarter with a hoop from Kyle's assist. The Naselle lead had suddenly jumped to 12 points earned on a 23-14 third period that included four three points plays. Austin's nine third quarter points had led five Naselle scorers to their biggest lead of the game at that point.

Even without the shooting of Sultemeier and Kyle, who were each benched by four fouls, the Comets continued to add to their lead in the fourth period. All five Comets on the floor at any one time joined in the scoring, The Naselle lead grew to 20 points at 63-43 on See's second trey of the game and the Comets coasted home with a 20-12 fourth quarter for their 70-50 win.

In contrast to their previous game, the Comets shot much better, making 43 percent of their shots from the floor and 71 percent at the foul line. The Indians made 42 percent of their field goal tries and 62 percent of their free throws.

The Comets boys now will play their two most crucial games of the season. They traveled to take on the state-ranked Tacoma Baptist Crusaders on Saturday, Feb. 2. The Crusaders were tied with the Comets for first place in the league with a 10-2 record coming into that game, but the Crusaders have the tie-breaker due to an earlier win over the Comets. The Comets will close out their regular season Saturday, Feb. 9, when they entertain Northwest Christian, a team which is in third place only one game behind the two leaders.

South Bend 5 19 14 12 - 50

Naselle 12 15 23 20 - 70

South Bend (50) - Randy Eang 15, Chase Michell 15, Howard 8, Lorton

7, Lazelle 2, Huber 2, Spoor 1; FG - 19-45 (42%). FT 8-13 (62%)

Naselle (70) - Conor Smith 20, Austin Burkhalter 17, Kyle Burkhalter

11, N. Hines 6, Sultemeier 6 See 6, Erickson 4, J. Hines, Macy,

Mendoza; FG - 27-for-63 (43%), FT - 15-for-21 (71%); Rebounds: Smith

11, A. Burkhalter 8. K. Burkhalter 7; Assists: K. Burkhalter 3

The Naselle JVs avenged an earlier loss to the Indian JVs with a come from behind 46-44 win. The Comets trailed by as many as 13 points in the second half before they made their come-back. Manny Lopez led the Naselle scorers with 16 points. Coach Scott Smith said, "South Bend got a little tired and we were able to substitude and keep fresh legs on the floor. This was a great win for these guys. We avenged a 6 point lose at South Bend 48-42. We have won 11 games and lost 5. This group has had a great year. We beat Valley twice and now South Bend. We lost by two to Tacoma Baptist but it does not look like we will play them again."

Comets boys lose in OT to SeasideNASELLE - It finally happened. But it took a team from a school with about four times the enrollment of Naselle High an overtime period to do it, on a night when the home town boys weren't shooting their best. The Naselle Comets boys lost their first game in their last ten starts, in a winning streak that began a month ago in the Astoria Holiday Tournament. They lost a make-up non-league game to the veteran team from class 4A Seaside, 72-67, in an overtime game played Monday, Jan. 28, in Naselle's Lyle Patterson Gym. The loss saw the Comets season record drop to 11-6.

This was the kind of test that the Comets needed at this stage of their season - a game against a tough, fast-moving, good shooting ball club in a non-counting game as far as the league and post-season play is concerned. To be sure, the Comets, their coach Brian Macy, and fans would liked to have won this game. They came close.

Macy agreed in stating, "This was just the type of game we needed heading towards the tournament. If we can learn from this then it will obviously make us that much better, and more prepared for the district tournament."

Naselle was led by the double-double of Kyle Burkhalter with 18 points and 10 rebounds and Austin Burkhalter with 17 points and 8 boards, Conor Smith had 9 points (and 4 steals) and Nathan Sultemeier and Nick Hines each chipped in with 8 points, and Hines also had 4 steals. All seven Comets who played put points on the scoreboard.

The Seagulls were led by the double-double of their 6-5 senior center Ed Kauffunger with 17 points and 21 rebounds. Senior Chris Senick, one of the Gulls speed merchant guards, chipped in with 14 points and several timely steals and assists. One of the other equally pesky Gull guards, junior Jeremy Carow, finished with 12 points, plus several steals and assists.

This game didn't look good, or even appear as if the Comets would come within a country mile of the high-flying Gulls for the first two and a half quarters. With over five minutes already gone in the third quarter, the Comets trailed the veteran Gulls, who start four seniors, by 18 points. The Gulls were clearing the Comets misses off the glass, or forcing turnovers, and scoring on break-aways. The Gulls had five run outs in the third period alone with three of them coming in quick succession to help the Gulls go from a 36-28 half-time lead to that 18 point margin.

At that point, the Comets shots were like the Naselle rain, kind of falling all over the place. Twos, threes, jumps shots, put-backs, free throws - you name it - they weren't going where they were supposed to go for the Comets. The Comets shot 37 percent (25 of 68) on their two point tries, an abysmal 14 percent (3 of 21) on their threes, and a chilly 47 percent (14 of 30) on their free throws. That is the way it went, especially for the first 21 minutes of action. Unfortunately for the Comets, those missed free throws were going to haunt them at game's end, as well. The Comets were 3-for-9 in the last period while the Gulls were only 2-for-7 in their fourth period free throws so that shooting was about a standoff.

The Comets trailed 17-9 after one quarter. After each team scored 19 points in the second period, the Comets still trailed by eight at intermission. The third period opened as if the Gulls were going to run away and hide. The Kauffunger-led Gulls controlled their defensive board and their speed-burner guards were off and running, first with an 8-2 run and then on a 8-5 run an the Comets looked to be in a world of hurt. But the Comets tightened up and a rally led by Sultemeier and Kyle Burkhalter and with points from other players pushed the Comets on a run of their own that closed the gap to twelve points, at 53-41, as the third period ended.

The Comets after-burners were suddenly ignited as they took control of the fourth quarter. Kyle Burkhalter was to score ten points in the period, and Austin Burkhalter, who had a quiet scoring game up to that point, popped in seven points in the quarter, including his only three-ball of the night which tied the score at 60-all with 1:30 left in regulation time. Three other Comets were to contribute points to the Naselle barrage as the Comets out-scored the Gulls 24-12 in the quarter.

The score was tied four times, and the Comets grabbed the lead on three different possessions, in the last minute and a half of regulation time as both teams had their chances to put it away. However, the Naselle shooting, especially free throw shooting, cost them. The Comets were 1 for 5 on their freebies inside the last minute and a half of regulation time plus the four minutes of overtime, while the Gulls were 3 for 5 during that same period of time.

The action in the last 1:30 of the fourth quarter came down to Naselle gaining a one point lead on Kyle's free throw. The Gulls then tied it on 1 of 2 free throws. Kyle put the Comets on top again with a drive to the rack. The Gulls came back for a tie at 63 from a Naselle turnover. The Comets regained the lead on a drive by Austin with 13 seconds left, but a missed free throw denied Naselle a three point lead. The Gulls answered with a hoop from inside the paint with less than three seconds left and the game went into OT tied at 65. This was the second overtime game that Naselle has played this season - in fact, in the last ten days - and the Comets are 1-1 in those OT games.

Overtime turned into a Seagull flurry. Naselle again won the tip on the opening jump ball, but missed the shot that would have given them the lead. The Gulls came back and scored on a steal by Senick, but a drive by Austin tied the score at 67, for the last time, with 2:30 left to play. The Gulls worked their way to a three point lead on a put-back by Kauffunger and one of two free throws a few seconds later. When the Comets couldn't respond, as they missed two more free throws and two more threes, the Gulls added two more Kauffunger free throws for their five point win.

Seaside 17 19 17 12 7 - 72

Naselle 9 19 13 24 2 - 67

Seaside (72) - Ed Kauffunger 17, Chris Senick 14, Jeremy Carow 12,

Oliver 9, Farmer 8, Walker 7, Schneider 6; Rebounds: Kauffunger 21

Naselle (67) - Kyle Burkhalter 18, Austin Burkhalter 17, Smith 9, N.

Hines 8, Sultemeier 8, Erickson 5, See 2 ; FG - 25-68 (37%) 3's -

3-21 (14%), FT - 14-30 (47%); Rebounds: K. Burkhalter 10, A.

Burkhalter 8; Steals: N. Hines 4, Smith

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