ILWACO - It was a game of chutes and ladders, a contest between well-coached 4-1 teams with equally talented players, and a rivalry game to boot and in the end it was Naselle that ripped off a 28-9 fourth period run on their way to a 64-52 non-league basketball win over the Fishermen at Carl Aase Gymnasium Saturday.
Naselle coach Brian Macy said, "Ilwaco is a good team, but our depth may have been the difference tonight. We got a step ahead of them in the fourth quarter and we anticipated well on defense." Ilwaco coach Kip Meinhardt agreed, "Naselle was able to find the holes in our zone defense and they made the plays in the last period. I was disappointed that we lost after playing so well for three quarters, but I'm not disappointed in my guys' effort."
The Comets burst to a 6-0 lead with 5:11 to go in the first period and then it was the Fishermen's turn to reel off 14 unanswered points to close the initial frame with a 14-6 lead. Kolby Kirby knocked down a free throw and had two assists, Justin Short hit a pair of jumpers, Jack Whealdon hit a three, a two, and two foul shots, and Chris Schommer came off the bench to score a field goal during the Ilwaco onslaught.
Ilwaco fashioned their largest lead of the fray 23-12 at the 3:56 mark of the second period, but Austin Burkhalter's three and field goals by Drew Macy and Randy Hamm helped cut the Fishermen edge to 28-20 at the half. Following intermission Alan Erickson's three free throws and a three-pointer brought Naselle to within 34-30, but four points by Karl Oman and Whealdon's five scores and an assist lengthened the lead to 43-36 by the end of the third period.
The Comets began the fateful final frame when Gabe See managed a left-handed tip in of an errant shot. "Ilwaco guys had two hands on the basketball and I managed one, but the ball went in," See said. The fortuitous bounce may have been an omen as during the first four minutes of the final period Naselle went on a mammoth 17-0 run that gave them a 53-43 lead with 4:04 remaining in the fray.
Oman's trey and three baskets by Whealdon closed the gap to 56-52 with 2:16 to play. The Fishermen went into a half-court trap defense to help trigger their comeback, but when the Comets were able to handle the pressure Ilwaco was forced to foul. Naselle converted 13 of 14 free throws down the stretch. Burkhalter was the only Comet to miss from the line and he nabbed his own rebound and was fouled. He made 7-8 from the charity stripe and Nathan Sultemeier was a perfect 6-6 down the stretch to preserve the victory for the visitors. Sultemeier scored 11 of his 14 points in the final period and Burkhalter tallied nine of his 16 in the fourth stanza.
Whealdon led all scorers with 26 points and garnered seven rebounds and Oman added 11 points and four assists. Short scored eight points, Kirby three and Ross Kary and Schommer each had two for the Fishermen. Nick Hines scored eight of his 12 points in the second half with a plethora of nifty moves in the paint for the Comets and Alan Erickson knocked down eight points in the first half, including a three-pointer and dished out four assists and grabbed seven boards. Conor Smith scored six, Macy added four points and six rebounds, and See and Hamm each scored twice. Burkhalter pulled down 11 rebounds for Naselle and Sultemeier had three assists.
The Comets were 20-52 from the field (38 percent) and were a season-high 21-24 from the free throw line for an astronomical 88 percent. The Fishermen shot 19-56 from the floor (34 percent) and made a credible 10-14 from the foul line (71 percent). Naselle won the battle of the boards 44-32, including securing 13 of 17 caroms in the final period, but they turned the ball over a dozen times to only 10 for Ilwaco. Fouls were 19 for the Fishermen and 16 for Naselle as Ilwaco picked up eight infractions in the final frame.
Coach Macy said, "We were able to get to the basket much better in the second half and we played more with a purpose against a much-improved Ilwaco team." Meinhardt related, "Naselle is a very good basketball team and this game helped us realize we need to take better care of the ball and be mentally tough to close out games." The Comets are now 5-1 and the Fishermen are 4-2 after the contest that was a make-up of a game "snowed out" Dec. 15.
Naselle won the junior varsity contest 72-52 as six players, three from both sides, were in double figures. Ilwaco's Patrick Whealdon and Kyle Breckenridge each had 15 points each and Bobby Byrd contributed 10 for Coach Tim Harrell. The Comets were led by Leonel Mendoza's 20, followed by Manual Lopez with 18 and a dozen rebounds and Chase Chapman's 14 points for Coach Scott Smith.
Ilwaco - Justin Short 8, Cody Bliss, Jack Whealdon 26, Chris Schommer 2, Kolby Kirby 3, Bobby Byrd, Ross Kary 2, Karl Oman 11
Naselle - Ollie Baker, Nathan Sultemeier 14, Nick Hines 12, Drew Macy 4, Gabe See 2, Austin Burkhalter 16, Alan Erickson 8, Conor Smith 6, Randy Hamm 2, Manuel Lopez