The Washougal boys basketball players stepped onto the floor of their longtime Camas rivals and made a statement.
In the defining moment of their eight-game winning streak to start the season, the Panthers celebrated a 64-44 victory over the Papermakers Dec. 20, at Camas High School.
“It’s always big to win at Camas. It’s a rivalry that’s important to both communities,” said Washougal head coach Malcolm Estes. “In the 32 years I’ve been in Washougal, the games with Camas have always been a battle. Especially for those first 20 years I was here. It would be nice to see that again.”
David Crowley led the Panther attack with 12 points, 8 rebounds, 5 assists and 4 steals. Aaron Diester delivered 11 points and grabbed 9 rebounds. Isaac Bischoff added 12 points and 8 rebounds. Michael McElroy netted 11 points.
“Washougal’s back,” Diester said. “We showed that we can compete with the bigger schools, and beat them in their gym.”
Austin Dubbay attacked the basket for the Papermakers. He scored most of his team-leading 15 points on rebounds and put backs. Anthony Fallin, Kyle Friend and Trent Johnson also drove to the hoop several times to earn points and foul shots. Johnson ended up with 11 points in the game, Friend added 8 and Fallin chipped in 7.
Both teams traded leads in the first half. That all changed after Mustapha Bah hit a 3-pointer just before the buzzer to give the Panthers a 27-25 advantage heading into the locker room at halftime. Washougal outscored Camas 37-19 in the second half, capped off by a 23-11 run in the fourth quarter.
“Once that second half started, it was our game,” McElroy said. “As loud as our fans were, it felt like a home game. Every time we made a basket, or got a rebound or a steal, they were up. It made it a better game.”
The back-and-forth action continued in the third quarter. Crowley stole the ball for Washougal and kicked it to Diester on the way to the hoop for two points. Diester then got a friendly roll-in for two more points off a nice dish by Bah. Friend powered up two points for Camas to put a stop to the 7-0 scoring drive. McElroy went coast-to-coast and put the ball in the net to keep momentum going for the Panthers.
Camas cut the lead to two points late in the third quarter, but could not get any closer. Friend drew another foul shot off a basket, and made it for a 3-point play. Dubbay then drained a 3-pointer to give the Papermakers hope. Washougal dashed it away with an 8-0 run to close out the third quarter. By the time McElroy hit a 3-pointer from the left wing just a few minutes into the fourth quarter, the Panthers were in the driver’s seat.
After the game, the Washougal fans serenaded the Panther basketball players with an 8-0 chant.
“Those fans follow us everywhere,” Estes said. “It shows the great school spirit and community support we have in Washougal.”
The next night, Mountain View overwhelmed Washougal 80-50. Despite a tough first loss of the season for the Panthers, Estes said it illustrated areas of the game they can improve on.
“After such an emotional win against your crosstown rival, it’s tough to come back the next day and play another game,” he said. “Mountain View just shot the lights out. It was their night, not ours.”
Estes finds it hard to erase the image of the Washougal kids celebrating a victory on the Camas floor.
“It’s a very good feeling. I’m just very happy for these kids,” Estes said. “They have all worked so hard together to get us to this point, and they are committed to being a team.
“Hard work pays off,” he added. “Hopefully, that continues for us in league. We still have a lot of work to do.”