CHEHALIS — Ilwaco opened its District tournament run with a victory, beating Adna 55-48 at W.F. West High School Thursday, Feb. 13. Returning from an ankle injury, Parker Kaech held Adna star Braden Thomas to five points and overcame his own slow offensive start to lead a second-half comeback.

Thomas, a 6’2” guard, showed his versatility by guarding Ilwaco’s 6’9” center Joe Nisbett. The Pirates went with him for that assignment instead of the 6’3” post Zander Blankenship-Todd. At the other end, Kaech, the ace perimeter defender, guarded Thomas, who came in averaging 20.8 points per game. Nisbett checked Blankenship.

Fighting tough defense from Blankenship, Nisbett, often rebounding his own misses, scored eight first-quarter points, adding an assist on a Bubba Douglas three, as Ilwaco took a 14-8 lead late in the first quarter. Blankenship stepped out for back-to-back threes to tie it at 14 heading into the second.

Kaech got off to a slow start offensively, taking a while to regain his rhythm after not playing in two weeks. He turned it over on a doomed baseline drive, then turned down a driving lane for a tough step-back three that missed, and had just two points in the first half.

Adna used a press to force a pair of turnovers at the end of the half, scoring four points on those turnovers for a 29-20 halftime lead.

“Coming off the ankle injury, I was trying to see what I could do,” Kaech said. “I hadn’t played the last two [regular season] games. I’d only practiced on it. In the second half, I got a lot more comfortable.”

Adna built its largest lead of the game at 34-24 before Kaech’s step-back three with 5:02 in the third. Shortly afterward he scored on a one-on-one break off an Adna turnover, then scored on a Jaden Turner outlet pass, giving him seven straight points in a 1:17 span to cut the lead to three.

Adna started missing in close range. With Nisbett sitting in the late third and early fourth quarters, Kaech moved into the post on offense, where he was productive. Ilwaco finally regained the lead at 36-34 when Kaech passed out of a double team and Ilwaco swung it to an open Turner in the corner for three.

Turner made big defensive plays in the fourth. After airballing a three-pointer, he had a chase-down block of a layup attempt the other way. He helped force another miss at the rim. As Thomas drove down the lane on Kaech, Turner came over and got a steal. Turner forced a travel in the lane on yet another play.

Back in the game, Nisbett hit a close-range shot for a 46-39 lead. He then put back Kaech’s miss to cap a 24-5 run, giving Ilwaco its largest lead at 48-39 with 2:58 left.

Three-pointers by Blankenship and Cole Fay cut it to 48-45, but Adna could get no closer, and Ilwaco closed out the seven-point win.

Aaron Mead is a sports writer for the Chinook Observer. Contact him at 360-642-8181 or aaroncmead@gmail.com.

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