Washougal boys handle Hockinson

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Three Hockinson defenders reach out in vain, but they are unable to stop Michael McElory. The Washougal High School senior racked up 20 points on "Senior Night," which helped the Panthers beat the Hawks 61-51.

After a deflating loss at Mark Morris, the Washougal High School boys basketball team turned the corner and defeated Hockinson for the first time in school history.

“This win shows the maturation of this team,” said head coach Malcolm Estes. “The next play is all that matters. These boys do such a great job of fighting on. They’re better at it than me.”

Hockinson hit a 3-pointer on the opening possession of the game, but Jaden Jantzer tied it up with a three of his own for the Panthers. The teams traded baskets on the next few plays. Aaron Deister delivered two points off a steal and Michael McElroy drove around the defenders to score four points, but the Washougal students stayed in their seats and bit down on their tongues.

On the next basket, everything changed. Jantzer finished off a beautiful no-look pass from Deister and the place just erupted. The screams from the fans echoed around the jungle. There was no place for the Hawks to hide.

“I had chills,” said Jantzer, who finished with 11 points in the game. “This is the greatest experience of my life so far.”

The roaring didn’t stop until Washougal beat Hockinson 61-51 Friday. McElroy racked up 20 points, six rebounds, six assists and four blocks. Deister added 15 points and 10 rebounds.

“The energy in the gym was just amazing,” Deister said. “The whole game, we knew we had it.”

Nate Adams had six points and 10 rebounds. Austin Tran provided seven points off the bench, and Regan Townsend played some aggressive defense.

McElroy didn’t mind peeling himself off the floor as long as Washougal got the points.

“Everybody puts their body on the line and leaves it all out on the floor. I’m no different,” McElroy said. “In the last game, we didn’t get enough hustle plays. This game, we got all the hustle plays and that made a huge difference.”

Washougal defeated Mark Morris for the first time in 41 tries on Jan. 10, but lost to Hockinson in overtime four days later. The Panthers enjoyed sweet revenge against the Hawks on Friday. This is the first time they beat both teams, and they did it in the same season.

“We finally broke those strings,” Estes said. “It is no longer impossible to beat Mark Morris and Hockinson, and it because of this group of boys.”

Washougal is 10-1 at home this season. If the Panthers win at R.A. Long tonight, they will finish in second place in league and host their first playoff game Saturday.

“It’s what you want high school basketball to be about, with the gym packed and people cheering and screaming,” Estes said. “Our boys feed of that energy. That’s why we’ve only lost one home game all year.”