The regular season is in full swing and every game counts. The Tuesday, Jan. 3, matchup between two teams currently in the top half of the bracket in the 2B Central Division featured the Napavine Tigers defending their home court against the Toledo Indians.
High expectations were riding on the game as Toledo was seeking to solve a riddle that has not yet been solved this season. How do you beat those Tigers? They are 7-0 in varsity men's hoops and were undefeated in football this year as well.
Toledo came out undaunted and looked up to the task, both in execution and matchups in the first quarter. Both teams came out with great energy and execution defensively, which led to an exciting but scoreless first couple of minutes. Together the teams combined for consecutive missed shots, a traveling violation, a turnover and another missed shot before Napavine's Jordan Purvis cut the lid off of the rim and gathered the first score of the game for either team.
It should be mentioned that, on the travel call against Napavine, Peyton Stanley actually made the three-point shot with a hand in his face. Even though that shot didn't count, it was a sign of things to come for the Indians as they sought to keep the Napavine shooters in check.
Toledo's defense inside was solid all night, both one-on-one and in the help side. In fact, Junior Arroyo did his best Hassan Whiteside impression with six blocks and what seemed like every rebound that came his way. He spent most of the night on senior standout Wyatt Stanley. Stanley was described by Toledo's Coach Fallon as a difficult matchup because he can both score and rebound.
"You might hold his points down, but then he has the ability to have 22 rebounds against you," Fallon said of Stanley.
Arroyo and the Indians held Stanley to 13 points, but the Tigers have the capability of scoring from all five positions. When asked before the game who their leading scorer was, the Tiger's assistant coach said that he did not know but he thought they had four or five kids who were averaging 10 or more points.
This balanced offense was ultimately too much for the Indians to overcome, especially since their top scorer and All-League senior guard Joe Wallace struggled shooting most of the night. Several times Wallace would execute a great play and the Indians would look like they were about to pick up momentum. Half way through the first quarter Wallace hit a tough shot in the lane and then hustled back on defense to take a charge that looked like it was going to get the visitors rolling in the quarter. But Napavine responded with a defensive stop and a three from Peyton Stanley.
While Toledo continued to work hard on defense in the second quarter, they just never got the offense going, while Napavine barraged them with two more threes from Stanley and another one from junior Isaac Subitch. It was 30-19 at the half and on the verge of getting out of hand in favor of the home team.
Stanley missed his first shot out of halftime, but was something of a heat check that looked like Napavine was just going to try and bury Toledo in the first two minutes of the second half.
Wallace got a steal and a bucket, which helped Toledo draw within seven at 30 to 23. But they would get no closer as Napavine went on a 10 to 2 run, which was fittingly capped by P. Stanley hitting a three that made the score 45-27. Napavine then buckled down in the fourth quarter and hit enough of their free throws to keep Toledo at bay while withstanding 10 point second half efforts from Joe Wallace and Reece Wallace.
The final score of 61-48 was a solid win for the Tigers in a game that was hard fought and could easily have been a lot closer.