MONTESANO — Naselle took down Mary M. Knight 70-55 in the must-win second-place game at District Saturday, Feb. 22. The win clinched spots at both Regionals and State.

Playing the Comets for the fourth time this year, the Owls were ready for Naselle’s press, and the Comets didn’t generate many of the half-court steals they thrive on. The Comets had won by an average of 38.3 points, including 90-36 in the previous week’s District semifinal game when the Owls were without star Isaiah Compton.

On Saturday, Compton was back, and the blitz-like scoring runs the Comets relied on to break open the previous contests never really came. Ethan Lindstrom’s 26 points kept Naselle afloat on a night when teammates were in a shooting slump, but the Owls got within nine at 50-41 through three quarters. Chase Haataia, scoring nine of his 12 point sin the fourth quarter, helped the Comets pull out to a 19-point lead to secure the win.

Led by Lindstrom, Naselle built a big early lead. Lindstrom started the game with a three-pointer, made a sharp cut to get himself two more points, then made a steal that led to a Kolby Glenn three for an 8-0 lead after 1:33. Shortly afterward, Lindstrom drove and, while in the air, made a kick-out pass to Corey Gregory for three more and a 14-0 lead. But the Comet offense stalled out, Compton got himself going with some put-backs, and MMK went on a 14-4 run to cut the lead to four.

Naselle rebuilt the lead late in the first half and early in the third quarter. Lindstrom made another athletic pass, balancing on his pivot foot in traffic and finding Jimmy Strange for three and a 29-18 lead. Gregory, who finished with 15 points and five assists, stole the ensuing in-bound pass and scored. Glenn found Gregory near the basket for a 34-20 halftime lead. Lindstrom added a three-pointer and a pair of free throws on a put-back attempt, pushing the lead to 39-20 just over a minute into the third quarter.

But Knight then broke a Comet press for a three-point play, and started hitting tough three-point shots to chip away. Compton ran the floor for an easy bucket that cut the lead to 11, then scored on a slick move down low to cut it to single digits at 50-41 after three quarters.

Haataia’s three from the corner rattled in to stretch the lead to 56-41 with just 6:43 left. On the next possession he made a cut, caught Glenn’s pass, and kicked out to Lindstrom for an open three to stretch it to 16. After Dylan Ralph’s fade-away three cut the lead back to 11, Haataia answered, scoring inside on a pass from Glenn. The Comets extended the lead further to put an end to the Owls’ upset bid.

Knight reached Saturday’s second-place game by beating the other semifinal loser, Three Rivers Christian. Naselle backed into the game by losing district finals to Taholah. District IV got only two boys’ regional seeds, and the Comets got the second with Saturday’s win. By reaching regionals with a top-eight RPI, the Comets insured a trip to state.

Five-seed Naselle will take on number four Riverside Christian at Regionals Friday, Feb. 29 at Eisenhower High School in Yakima at 4 p.m. The winner gets a first-round bye at state.

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

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