NASELLE - In a classic battle, the two neighboring schools went at it tooth-and-nail in a revival of the long-time boys basketball rivalry between Naselle and Ilwaco high schools. The non-league game, played Monday, Dec. 4, in Naselle's Lyle Patterson Gym, saw the Comets hold off the Fishermen 58-52.
The tone of this game was set very early as both team were in a running, harassing mode of play. Ilwaco's senior standouts, 6-foot 4-inch Anthony Wirkkala and 5-8 Paul Blaylock dropped in Ilwaco's opening four points. They were more than matched with a 3 pointer by Naselle's 5-foot 7-inch sophomore Nathan Sultemeier, four points off drives by 6-foot 1-inch junior Kyle Burkhalter, and a fast break hoop by 6-foot 2-inch sophomore Conor Smith, with all three of the drives starting from Ilwaco turnovers.
Blaylock countered with another three-pointer, only to be matched by Naselle senior Spencer Griss on a baseline drive and Kyle on a defensive rebound and coast-to-coast drive for a goal plus a free throw.
Kyle's "basket plus one," gave the Comets a 14-7 lead with less than half of the quarter gone. Kyle was to rack up 11 points in the period, with four of his teammates also scoring when senior Casey Heagy dropped in a deuce before the quarter ended. On the Fishermen end of the court, only Wirkkala, Blaylock, and junior Matt Kaino were able to score as Naselle took a 20-13 lead at the horn.
The Comets had a distinct rebounding advantage (39-23) in the game and this pleased Macy. He said, "I realize that they were missing a few players that would have helped them but I was pleased with the way we hit the boards in comparison to our first game. Kyle led our rebounders with 15, but several others, such as Conor, Austin, and Casey, chipped in to get some key boards. But we still need to improve our rebounding." Another area which probably will receive lots of work will be the Naselle free throw shooting where they only made 6 of 17 for 35 percent shooting, less than their (24 of 54) 44 percent shooting from the floor.
Things were to change in the second stanza. Ilwaco sophomore Jack Whealdon was to emerge as the "mad bomber" as he opened Ilwaco's scoring with a trey. He was to add a long deuce and another three ball later to account for eight points in the period. Ilwaco was also to get a rebound hoop from Wirkkala and four points from sophomore Kolby Kirby, with his last shot just beating the half-time horn.
The Comets had opened the second period with freshman Austin Burkhalter scoring on a rebound put-back, Kyle's second coast-to-coast score, and Austin's baseline drive, for Naselle's largest lead at 11 points. However, with Ilwaco pouring in 14 second quarter points, Naselle went stagnant as their long shots wouldn't drop and they only got one free throw by sophomore Nick Hines in slightly over six minutes when Kyle finally scored with forty seconds left in the half. When Kirby got his buzzer beater, it completed a 11-4 Ilwaco run and the Fishermen closed to within 27-29 at the intermission.
Wirkkala opened the second half to first tie the game, and then give the Fishermen their first lead since the opening minutes at 31-29, Naselle couldn't make a shot for the first 3:05 of the half, and after Wirkkala's two scores, the Fishermen went flat for the next 4:05. Kyle finally broke the dry spell on a hustling second rebound effort to tie the game. Austin, Heagy, and Kyle followed with scores and Naselle's eight straight points had given them back a six-point lead. While this was going on, Wirkkala picked up his third foul at the 5:12 mark and was benched by Jarrett. Kyle picked up his third foul at 3:56, but stayed in the game, and Sultemeier his third foul 10 seconds later.
Ilwaco responded with six straight points, two by senior Junior Talancon and four by Blaylock, the last two on free throws that tied the game at 37 with 1:13 left in the third period. Heagy responded with four points, the first on a coast-to-coast steal and hoop and the second on a fast-break pull-up jumper. Those hoops were sandwiched around Blaylock's free throws and they were to give Naselle the lead for good, as it turned out, at 41-38 as the third quarter ended.
The fourth quarter was controlled by the Burkhalter boys, especially Kyle with 11 points of the first 13 points scored in a 13-8 run. Austin was to add five points and help control the boards as the game wound down. The Fishermen opened the final quarter with two Wirkkala hoops bracketed around Kyle's basket as Naselle maintained and then improved its lead.
The Fishermen then went cold again for two minutes and 20 seconds while Kyle hit a three-ball and scored on a rebound put-back to give Naselle a six point lead at the 4:34 mark. Ilwaco finally found the hoop and four points by Blaylock got them within four points of the Comets. However, Kyle came right back with two offensive drives which left the Ilwaco defense scrambling and Naselle had its biggest lead of the quarter at eight points with 2:25 left.
The Fishermen were again to go without a point for the next two minutes and 10 seconds while the Comets were having their troubles at the foul line. Until the final seconds, they were only two for six at the line inside the final 1:48, while missing the front ends of two one-and-ones. This allowed the Fishermen to hang around but they were missing their shots, thus allowing the Comets to run the clock.
Jarrett called timeout in the middle of this run and instructed his team to set up for three point shots. Whealdon responded with his third trey of the game and Blaylock his second three-ball. Those six points allowed the Fishermen to get closer, but each time, the Comets would make a free throw or two, capped by Austin's two-for-two with 7.9 seconds left and the Comets 17-14 fourth quarter gave them their hard-fought 58-52 win.
Jarrett said, "We have to learn to play hard in every game with the people that we have. My hat is off to the Naselle players and their coaches; they came out and played hard-nosed man-to-man defense and out-played us."
Macy concluded, "I was pleased with the way that we played team defense. We had some breakdowns, but Wirkkala and Blaylock are especially tough players to defend. Overall, I was pleased with the way that we played."
ILWACO (52) - Blaylock 19, Wirkkala 14, Whealdon 11, Kirby 4, Kaino 2, Talancon 2
NASELLE (58) - K Burkhalter 24, A Burkhalter 15, Heagy 8, Smith 4, Sultemeier 4, Griss 2, Hines 1
The Naselle JVs jumped off to a 10-0 lead on the young Fishermen in the preliminary game. As it turned out, that lead was enough for the Comets to hold on for a 35-31 win. The Comets led 19-8 at the half, only to see the Fishermen come back with a big second half to get within two points of the Comets with five minutes left to play. Naselle was able to outscore Ilwaco 7-5 in the remaining minutes for their 35-31 victory.