CENTRALIA - All good things must come to an end and that end came all too soon for the Naselle Comets boys basketball team Friday night in a 65-54 loss to the Napavine Tigers in a Southwest Washington 2B Basketball Tournament loser-out game played at Centralia High School. The Comets finished their season with a 15-8 record, and the Pacific League championship.

Coming into this season, the Napavine Tigers were among the odds-on favorites to battle for the Central League championship. The tall, veteran team was returning eight seniors after a trip to the state tournament the year before. But things didn't go their way this season and the Tigers finished in fifth place.

Friday night's game started out as a nightmare continuation of the Comets loss a night earlier to Northwest Christian, as the Tigers shot out to an 8-2 lead in the opening minutes of the game. The Comets finally got their offense on course and they were able to get to a 19-10 deficit by quarter's end.

The second quarter opened with the teams trading scores through the first three minutes. Then the Comets went to a trapping defense that rattled the Tigers. The result was a 15-0 Naselle run in a little over three minutes of clock time. A steal and an assist by Kyle Burkhalter with brother Austin on the receiving end of the play produced a lay-in which gave Naselle a 26-25 lead. The Comets steals resulted in Tiger fouls and the Comets stretched their lead to six points. It could have been close to that lead at the half, but in playing for the last shot, the shot was taken too early, Naselle fouled, and the Tigers clawed back to trail 32-31 at the half. The Comets had outscored the Tigers 22-12 in the period.

The Comets were not able to continue their harassing defense as successfully in the third period as the Tigers first tied the score at 33 and again at 38. Napavine reclaimed the lead at 40-38, with two minutes left in the third quarter, after scoring seven points in a row and they never trailed again. The third period saw the Tigers earn a 13-10 advantage and a 44-42 lead going into the final eight minutes.

The Comets pressure defense seemd to tire as the game went on, and with 3:42 left in the game the Tigers went on a 10-1 run, stretching their lead to 11 points. Kyle popped in a long trey, matching an earlier one by Sultemeier for Naselle's only threes of the game. That triple pulled the Comets within eight points of the Tigers but Napavine then closed the book with three free throws and the Tigers had their 11-point win.

The Comets finished with three players in double figures. Kyle Burkhalter had 15 points, Nathan Sultemeier 12, and Conor Smith 12. Austin Burkhalter, with 9, was just out of double digits. The Comets did not shoot very well from the floor, 38 percent overall but only 13 percent on their threes. However, they did make 70 percent of their free throws. The Tigers had four players in double figures, led by Arturo Ramirez with 19 to lead all scorers.

The game was the last for Kyle Burkhalter, the Comets only senior. Coach Brian Macy, in talking about the year, the team, and Kyle in particular, said, "A frustrating way to end our season. For whatever reason, I thought we played much more tentatively in the tournament than we had throughout the season. We are going to miss Kyle for sure. What a quality individual. I would like to thank all the players for their hard work throughout the season. They are a great bunch of young men who are fun to coach."

NASELLE (54) - Kyle Burkhalter 15, Nathan Sultemeier 12, Conor Smith 12, Austin Burkhalter 9, Nick Hines 4, Gabe See 2, Alan Erickson; FG - 18-47 (38%), 3's - 2-15 (13%), FT - 16-23 (70%); Rebounds: K. Burkhalter 5; Assists: K. Burkhalter 2; Steals: A. Burkhalter 4, K. Burkhalter 2

NAPAVINE (65) - Arturo Ramirez 19, Blake Anthony 14, Casey Carns 12, Kirk Vigre 11, Hamre 6, Brown 2, Keller 1

Comets boys fall to NWCCHEHALIS - The Naselle Comets boys found that the old adage of a "fox in the hen house" came true with their own version of a "Fox in the Comets coop." In this case, the fox was 5-foot-11 senior guard Ryan Fox who almost single-handedly led the Northwest Christian Navigators to a 65-57 win over the Comets in a Southwest Washington District Tournament 2B game played in the W. F. West High School gym Thursday, Feb. 21. The loss knocked the Comets into the loser-out round where one more loss would end their season. The Navigators qualified for the state tournament for the first time ever in their 12 year history as a high school.

As good as Fox was, with 29 points, including floaters, put-backs from rebounds, driving lay-ins, threes, and free throws, his game, alone, was not enough to give NWC the win. In three tournament games, Fox has scored 31, 30, and 29 points, well above his 13 PPG average. In fact, the Comets out-shot the Navigators in made field goals 23 to 22, including a seven to four advantage in successful 3-point tries. However, NWC had a huge 17-4 advantage at the charity stripe where they had 23 opportunities to the Comets miserly nine tries.

But, this game was one of missed opportunities, especially by the Comets. Naselle fell behind 10-0 in the early minutes of the game when they were playing, as coach Brian Macy described it with "a deer in the headlights" look. The Comets didn't put any points on the board until Nathan Sultemeier scored on a drive with over three minutes played in the game. The Burkhalter brothers traded assists to each other with Austin draining Naselle's first trey of the game and Kyle added a deuce. Sultemeier added another triple and the Comets 10-2 spurt had gotten them back into the game. But the free throw bugaboo began to make its presence felt early in the quarter. NWC went 4-for-4 from the line and they ended the quarter with a 16-12 lead after a Conor Smith hoop, from as assist by Austin, had brought Naselle within two points.

As it turned out, that was a preview of what was to happen three more times in the game. The Comets, playing catch-up all night long, got within two points three more times during the game but they could never quite get over the hump to tie or take the lead. More times than not, it was Fox who provided the plays or points to allow NWC to pull away from the Comets.

The second period turned into a Naselle quarter, the only quarter where they outscored their opponent. After giving up the first four points of the quarter, the Comets responded with Sultemeier draining two treys in a row. Smith scored on a put-back of his own miss and the Comets again were within two points with three minutes left in the half. Robbie Groeschell, who finished with 13 points, then popped a trey and Fox got a deuce for his 16th point of the half to stretch the NWC lead.

The Comets turned up the "D" and Smith's check of a NWC shot led to a Nick Hines break-away. The Comets scored again when Kyle connected with Alan Erickson on another long pass to pull with three points. Naselle got the ball back again and just missed a triple as the horn ended the half. Naselle's 14-13 quarter sent the teams into intermission with NWC holding a 29-26 lead.

Sultemeier led Naselle with 18 points, 11 in the first half, while the Burkhalter brothers - Kyle and Austin - each scored 13 with all but five of those 26 points coming in the second half. Smith was just out of double digits with nine points. The Comets had balanced rebounding with Smith grabbing six and three other Comets, five each. Fox with 29 points and Groeschell with 13 were the only NWC players in double figures.

NWC opened the second half with a near duplicate of the opening quarter as the Gators scored the first seven points of the half, four of them on hoops by Fox. The 3-ball played a big part in the period as NWC's Groeschell connected on one and Fox on two. But those treys were matched by Austin with two and Sultemeier with one. The Navigators 19-15 quarter allowed them to enter the final eight minutes with a 48-41 lead which saw Sultemeier picking up his third foul of the game.

Naselle came back with a 6-1 run on two points by Kyle, and after a steal, a deuce by Austin, and 2-for-2 at the line by Sultemeier. Those points got Naselle within two points one more time, this time with 6:14 left in the game. Along the way, Sultemeier picked up his fourth foul.

But again, just when the Comets got close, the Fox-led Navigators went on an 8-0 run n less than a minute. Fox scored six of the eight points and NWC had a 10-point lead with four and a half minutes left. From that point on, it was almost a point-for-point exchange as the Comets could get no closer than five points in the last half of the quarter. The Comets outscored the Gators 10-8 in the remaining time but that was not enough as NWC won the free throw battle. Sultemeier drew his fifth foul with 2:44 left, followed by Austin's fifth inside the last minute.

NWC won the fourth period scoring battle 17-16 to secure their eight-point win and a trip to Spokane. With the loss, the Comets were one loss away from seeing their season end.

NASELLE (57) - Nathan Sultemeier 18, Kyle Burkhalter 13, Austin Burkhalter 13, Conor Smith 9, Nick Hines 2, Alan Erickson 2

NW CHRISTIAN (65) - Ryan Fox 29, Robbie Groeschell 13, Steven Dunn 8, Cameron Hamilton 7, David Sowers 4, Dan Mailhot 2, Airick Owens 2

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