MONTESANO - In baseball it is walks and errors, in football turnovers are the bugaboo, and in basketball missed free throws can be the critical factor in a losing cause. Sinking only two of 10 foul shots hamstrung the Comets' chances of knocking off defending state champion Pe Ell as Naselle dropped a 48-45 thriller in the opening round of the District IV tourney in Montesano Thursday, Feb. 10.
The Comets trailed 29-18 at intermission, but went on a 9-2 scoring binge to make things interesting midway through the third period. Ollie Baker's 40-foot trey to end the third frame brought Naselle to within 38-30 and his fifth three-pointer of the contest closed the gap to three points near the end of the contest.
"We have been playing better, but we didn't have our most productive night offensively tonight. We played well on defense, but (6-foot-2 reigning State MVP) Hank Robinson at the head of their 1-2-2 zone may have caused us to be a bit tentative at times," Coach Brian Macy said.
The Baker brothers, Ollie and Rob, combined for 27 of Naselle's 45 points as Ollie finished with 17 after canning five treys and Rob scored 10 points. Ollie had a double-double as he garnered 10 rebounds and Rob had six and both passed for three assists. Leo Mendoza and Nick Strange each dished out five assists, Mendoza tallied eight points, Chase Chapman added six, and Andy Gonzales finished with four points. Chapman had three steals.
"Chase had his best game of his career, Ollie scored well, and Rob did too when he wasn't on the bench in foul trouble," Macy explained. "We played Ratkie, Robinson, and (Dylan) Toepelt man-to-man and zoned the other two guys and that seemed to get Pe Ell out of their rhythm."
The Comets were 18-50 for 36 percent from the field, canning seven three-pointers while going 2-10 from the line. Pe Ell was 19-45 for 42 percent with but one make from beyond the arc, but they were 9-17 from the foul line for 53 percent. The Trojans won the battle of the boards 36-30 and Naselle had 15 turnovers to 13 for Pe Ell. Fouls were 14 for the Comets to a mere six for the Trojans.
The Comets fall to 9-12. Naselle plays Morton-White Pass at 8 p.m. in Centralia Wednesday, Feb. 16 in a loser-out contest.