MONTESANO — For the past three years, Taholah was the barrier to a district championship for Naselle. The Chitwhins beat them in districts all three years and added a regionals victory two years ago to keep them from going to state. But Naselle’s seniors finally got the upper hand in the rivalry this year. Naselle beat Taholah by 39 in the regular season, then crushed the Chitwhins again 82-49 in the Thursday, Feb. 14 district title game, Naselle’s first since 1993.
“It’s an unbelievable feeling,” senior center Jacob Eaton said. “We’ve come up short I don’t know how many times. Even before the season, we said this was the game we had to win. It’s definitely a highlight of my career.”
Eaton, along with point guard Kolby Glenn, took over right out of the gate. Glenn buried a three-pointer on the Comets’ first possession, then followed with a slick assist to Eaton on a pick and roll. Glenn forced turnovers on the Chitwhins’ next two possessions and hit Eaton with a long outlet pass for another assist.
Eaton had 11 straight Comet points by the midway point in the first quarter. He hit a three-pointer, got a close-range basket with a drop-step move on his defender, and swished an open 10-footer off an Antonio Nolan drive that made it a 14-2 game.
Glenn continued playing maddening defense, agitating the Chitwhins. Glenn, caught in a mismatch in the low post against 6’1” Izaiah Mowitch, crowded Mowitch and drew an offensive foul, leading to a technical. Nolan knocked down a catch-and-shoot three on the ensuing possession to make it 33-14 early in the second quarter.
A few minutes later, Nolan hit a deep three, giving him 12 points at that point. Eaton picked off a pass down the sideline, drove about 60 feet and finger-rolled it in for a 43-17 lead just over 12 minutes into the game. Eaton caught a lob from Nolan, got fouled near the rim and hit both free throws to cap his spectacular 17-point first half. The Comets led 50-24 at the break.
Glenn’s step-back three extended the lead to 30 early in the third quarter, and Naselle cruised the rest of the way.
Naselle had already clinched a trip to regionals. But the win over Taholah clinched a trip to state. NHS will go against top seed Sunnyside Christian in Ellensburg at Regionals on Feb. 23 at 2 p.m.; a first-round bye at state will be at stake.