There’s no place like home.
Especially in the boys basketball series between the Union Wildcats and Washington Blue Jays.
Union (5-12) took the third, and final game of the season series Saturday, winning the Union Tournament consolation game, 44-41.
“That was a good win,” Union Head Coach Chris Simmons said. “It’s been a long time since we’ve beaten Washington. I was real proud of them because we executed to a T in the first half. Then, in the second half, (Washington Head Coach) Grant (Young) did a great job of throwing a curveball at us and we didn’t respond very well. We were able to bounce back and it was a ballgame the rest of the way. It was a good game. Our kids played really smart basketball for 32 minutes and that hasn’t happened much this year.”
Washington (8-10) won the first two meetings, both at Blue Jay Gym. The Blue Jays triumphed Nov. 28, 61-55, and in the Washington Tournament semifinals, Jan. 12, 47-43.
“During the season, you’re going to go through a little bit of funk,” Young said. “We’re hitting that stretch right now. We’ve got to get out of it. We’ve got four weeks left in the season with some big conference games coming up. I know the kids are going to respond.”
In Saturday’s contest, Union led early, Washington came back and Union rallied again to lead 10-8 after one quarter.
Union continued to edge away in the second quarter and was up 21-13 at the half.
“When you score 13 points in a half, that’s a big hole to dig out of,” Young said.
Washington came out hot to start the third quarter and scored the first 11 points of the third quarter to take a 24-21 lead.
“That was great, we came out and made some adjustments at halftime, used the dribble drive and go downhill on them to go on that run,” Young said. “That got us going. We had more emotion on the floor. That’s something we’ve been lacking lately. We had a tough loss to Rockwood Summit in the first round and that demoralized us. We can’t let that carry on and it has in the last couple of games. We haven’t played to our potential. It was good to see us wake up.”
Union met that run with a 9-0 run to close out the quarter with Trevor Kelly hitting a pair of three-point baskets around a three from Jacob Towell. Union led 34-32 going to the final eight minutes.
Union added the first four points to start the fourth quarter and clamped down defensively to hold the lead throughout the fourth quarter.
Zach Harms hit a pair of free throws with 1:07 to play to pull Washington back to within a point, 40-39, but Union hit all four free-throw chances with the game on the line to seal the win. Peyton Burke knocked down the final two with 23.6 seconds to play to make it a three-point game, 44-41. Washington worked hard to try and tie it and had multiple chances, but couldn’t find the basket.
“With four minutes to go, we passed it around and made them come out to us,” Simmons said. “All night long,we showed poise.”
Union proved to be tough defensively as well.
“In the fourth quarter, we had a tough time scoring against their zone,” Young said. “They did a good job and made their free throws down the stretch. We had some open looks late, but weren’t able to make them.”
Kelly led all scorers in the game with 30 points. He knocked down six three-point baskets and also went 2-4 from the free-throw line.
“I never would have guessed he scored that many points,” Simmons said. “Guys did their jobs at a very high level. Our bigs were screening in the zone. Trevor was moving and we were patient. We did what we wanted to do instead of reacting to what Washington was doing.”
Kelly also was named to the all-tournament team.
Caleb Mabe was next with four points.
Towell and Kale Crawford scored three points apiece. Burke and Chase Mehler each had two points.
Union hit seven three-point baskets for the game. The Wildcats went 7-10 from the free-throw line.
“It was a total team effort,” Simmons said. “This group is really close. It was nice to see that tonight. We made an adjustment to go to four guards and that’s when we went on our run. We got great shots and Blake Dickinson made a big difference around the basket defensively.”
Cason Suggs topped the Blue Jays with 14 points. He was 6-10 from the free-throw line.
Conlan Jarvis, Washington’s all-tournament selection, scored 12 points and was 6-6 from the stripe.
Harms closed the game with seven points while Ryan Hoerstkamp netted six and Tommy Ruether added two points.
Washington was 16-20 from the free-throw line and hit one three-point basket.