The Union Titans wanted this matchup.
Battle Ground gave the Titans their only loss in the Class 4A Greater St. Helens League. Now, they met again, but for the district championship and the league’s top seed to bi-district.
This one was not about revenge, though. It was more of a pride things for the Titans.
“It was definitely something we wanted to prove to us,” Union junior Riley Hawken said. “Prove that no matter how we’re playing, we can always come out on top. If things aren’t going right, we can lock down and do what we have to do.”
Hawken scored 18 points and grabbed 14 rebounds, leading the Titans to a 60-43 victory over Battle Ground, earning the right to cut down the net Tuesday night at Union High School.
Union will host a first-round game in the bi-district tournament on Thursday. Battle Ground, as the No. 2 seed, also gets to host a game Thursday.
Freshman Cameron Cranston made three 3-pointers and finished with 11 points.
Micah Paulson added 10 points, and Isaiah Robinson was his usual giant in the paint, grabbing 16 rebounds with three blocked shots for the Titans.
While Robinson was defending the interior, the Union guards were causing all kinds of problems for the Tigers around the perimeter. Battle Ground finished 10 of 56 from the floor, 18 percent.
“We switched when we needed to switch,” said senior guard Austin Brown, considered by the Union coaches as the best lock-down defender on the team. “We just played great team ball, and everybody hustled.”
Union extended a six-point halftime lead to 16 by the end of the third quarter.
The Tigers would get within 11 three times as Union struggled for a couple of stretches on offense in the fourth quarter. There was no panic for the Titans, though.
Brown said he and his teammates can “feel it” when things aren’t going their way on offense. They also know what they can do about it: play even better defense.
“Not only do you up your intensity, but you have to play smarter,” Brown said. “You can be really energetic, but if you’re fouling, it just hurts your team. You have to play a lot smarter when you bring that energy.”
On offense, the plan was to go to Hawken early and often. Hawken, not known for leading his team in scoring, delivered.
“It’s nice to know that hard work pays off, and it’s nice to know the mismatches so we can execute like we do,” Hawken said.
Battle Ground never got in a shooting flow, going 4 for 16 in the first quarter. Then it got worse for the Tigers, who made 6 of 40 the rest of the night.
Jamie Ford led Battle Ground with 11 points. Devin Johnson added 10. Josh Lemar had a nose for the ball and grabbed 11 rebounds, nine offensive. While the Tigers got a lot of second-chances, they just could not find the basket.
“You gotta give Union some credit,” Battle Ground coach Wes Armstrong said. “They played really good defense on us. And we shot the ball horribly. I thought our kids battled and played hard, though.”
Union coach Blake Conley, in his first year with the program, was thrilled with that defensive effort. The Tigers beat Union earlier with a barrage of 3-pointers. On Tuesday, the Tigers were 1 of 16 from beyond the arc.
“They gave us our loss, and we wanted the opportunity to win the district title and play against them,” Conley said.
“We did a really good job of being focused on defense and making their guys uncomfortable. We made them shoot contested shots.”
Union won the regular season title with a 9-1 record, and now have the district crown, too. With defense leading the way.
UNION 60, BATTLE GROUND 43
BATTLE GROUND — Jamie Ford 11, Nate Moring 5, Damien Ford 3, Jeff Moran 0, Devin Johnson 10, Ben Nikolas 0, Josh Lemar 4, Colby Cahoon 5, Andrej Besara 0, Taylor Smith 1, Leland O’Hanlon 0, Keaton Hoots 4. Totals 10-56 (1-16) 22-37 43.
UNION — Derrick Derryberry 5, Nick Simkins 2, Cole Weatherspoon 0, Micah Paulson 10, Leon Siofele 0, Denis Kirichenko 3, Austin Brown 0, Skillful Davis 4, Isaiah Robinson 4, Riley Hawken 18, Cameron Cranston 11, Spencer Martin 1, Stephan Ammentorp 2. Totals 17-50 (8-17) 18-24 60.
B. Ground 11 15 6 11–43
Union 11 21 16 12–60