Men’s Basketball 3A/4A: Battle Ground buzzer beater hands Kelso his first league loss | Boys

BATTLE GROUND – Kelso caught Battle Ground for most of Thursday’s four quarters and came back to bite them at the end. After taking the lead late in the fourth, the Tigers’ Tate Spencer hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer to defeat the Hilanders 55-52 and hand them their first 3A/4A Greater St. Helens League loss of the season.

The Hilanders fell up to 11 points behind in the second quarter but managed to close the gap to 33-27 at the break.

After working all the way back to take a two-point lead around the two-minute mark, Battle Ground tied it at 55 from the free-throw line, handing the ball to the Hilanders with 45 seconds left.

“We got a really good look at a nice set that we ran that got the shot we wanted,” Kelso coach Joe Kinch said. “Unfortunately, that didn’t come in.”

On the ensuing possession, Kelso’s defense held its water and forced the Tigers to call a timeout with just 3.5 seconds left. This gave Battle Ground one last chance to avoid overtime.

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“I think we defended really well and went all but foul on the guy and he probably went about 23-24 feet,” Kinch said. “He hit a hard shot for sure.”

Spencer led the Tigers with a game-high 22 points, so the Hilanders circled him on the final possession. Not that it mattered.

Still, defense was a strong point for the Hilanders all night.

“They have pretty good offensive firepower,” Kinch said. “I thought collectively, as a team, we defended very well to keep them at 55. They can put 65, 70, 75 quite easily.”

But at the other end of the field, the Hilanders are still searching for their identity when they have the rock.

“I’m disappointed with the way I coached this team offensively,” Kinch said. “We have to improve because as we go into January and you go into the second time you’ve played opponents in the league, you have to get cleaner.”

Kinch said the coaching staff will have to re-evaluate and come up with a plan that works for their players as they hit the toughest part of their schedule. But he feels his team “ticks a lot of other boxes” in different aspects of the game and was happy with the fight they showed, even when losing.

“Our effort and our ability to hang on when we were as inconsistent offensively as we were playing, I’m very happy with that,” he said.

Michael Foust led the Hilanders with 20 points while Payton Stewart added 12 from home in the paint.

Kelso (6-3) had a chance to bounce back as he hosted WF West at home on Friday night.

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