What a difference a year makes for Skyler Gillispie and the Camas High School boys basketball players.
“Last year at this time, I barely knew their first and last names,” said the second-year head coach who took over the program just weeks before the season started. “The kids have played a lot of basketball together in the spring, summer and fall, and hopefully that reflects on the court. Our communication and camaraderie will be stronger this year.”
The shorthanded Papermakers made significant progress during the first week of the season, while Zach Eagle, Drew Clarkson and Michael Digenova fulfilled their required number of practices after football. On Nov. 26, Camas held Hudson’s Bay to just 13 points in the second half of a 54-39 road victory. Trevor Jasinsky and Jordan Lenard each scored 15 points.
The Papermakers and Prairie fought into overtime Friday, before the Falcons escaped the Camas warehouse with a 62-56 win. Camas just missed a 3-pointer after taking the lead late in the fourth quarter, but Tyler Hallead grabbed the rebound and kicked the ball back out. After a series of passes, the ball ended up in the hands of Trent Johnson and the senior delivered a 3-pointer to put the Papermakers up 47-42.
“We came out with more fire in the second half and played a lot better,” Hallead said. “It just shows how much potential we have in the future.”
Prairie outscored Camas 6-1 in the final two minutes to force overtime. Brandon Nguyen nailed two 3-pointers for the Papermakers in the extra session, but the Falcons matched him shot-for-shot, stole the ball, put it in the basket and then pulled away at the foul line.
“It was really exciting to get my first varsity start at home in a game that went into overtime. Unfortunately, we couldn’t get the win,” Nguyen said. “I came up and hit that three with a guy in my face. It brought a lot of energy out of the students and our bench. It was a very memorable game.”
Camas has a challenging non-league schedule. After Hudson’s Bay, Prairie and Mountain View, the Papermakers face Columbia River, Hockinson, Ridgefield, Richland and Washougal. Then the boys make their debut in the 4A Greater St. Helens League.
“We are going to see every press, every zone and anything teams think they can throw at us,” Gillispie said. “The learning curve in this 4A league is going to be so large. In my eyes, I want to see improvement in every game and in every practice.”
It all goes back to team unity. Hallead said he has known these Papermakers since he was 5. There’s no better group of guys for him to trust on the court.
“I think we can hang with any team, it depends on if we can come out and work hard every day,” Hallead said. “As long as everyone gives everything they got, night in and night out, that’s all you can ask for.”