Ethan Mitchell and Kelso’s six seniors achieved the stress free senior night it hoped for two days after recording their biggest win of the season.
Playing against 3A Greater St. Helens League foe Heritage Wednesday, Kelso had the game in control midway through the first quarterer en route to a breezy 76-38 victory which set the Hilanders up for at least a share of the 3A league title so long as they secure a win over Evergreen on Friday.
Kelso’s Zeke Smith puts up a shot from beyond the arc during a game against Heritage, Wednesday, Feb. 1, at Kelso High School. Smith scored six points in a 76-38 victory.
Appropriately, Kelso coach Joe Kinch was pleased with his team’s maturity.
“Sometimes some games are circled and others aren’t. We’ve played some circled games (over the last week) against Mark Morris and then Mountain View, so back-to-back pretty big games emotionally for us,” Kinch said. “But I thought the team was focused and we were able to defend pretty well. Big win on a senior night.”
People are also reading…
Kelso’s Hayden Yore pushes the ball past the midcourt “K” logo at Kelso High School, Wednesday, Feb. 1. Yore scored eight points in a 76-38 win over Heritage.
The Hilanders took control with a strong defensive effort that forced Heritage into 16 first-half turnovers, 11 coming in the first quarter alone. The Kelso offense took advantage with Blake Eastham, Hayden Yore and Zeke Smith all getting on the board early to give the Hilanders a 16-7 lead through the first eight minutes.
Kelso would go on a 12-2 run in the second quarter which extended its lead to 31-11. Heritage, meanwhile, endured an 11-minute stretch without a field goal after making its first attempt of the game when Jose Zacarias buried a three-pointer to give Heritage the early 3-0 lead.
Kelso’s Payton Stewart elevates to block a shot by Heritage’s Micah Cunningham during a game at Kelso High School, Wednesday, Feb. 1. Stewart helped the Hilanders lock down a 76-38 win.
From the 7:45 mark of the first quarter until the 4:40 mark of the second quarter, the Timberwolves managed six free throws for their entire offensive output. As a result, Kelso killed Heritage in transition and by the end of the first half the hosts held a 43-21 lead.
“I think one of the qualities of this team is our ability to get out and run and throw the ball ahead, catch it and finish,” said Kinch. “It’s a skill set for sure and we have some guys that are athletic enough to throw the ball well, catch it and finish. It was on display tonight.”
Kelso’s Michael Henderson contorts his body midair to complete the task on a contested layup, Wednesday, Feb. 1 at Kelso High School. Henderson scored six points in a 76-38 win over Heritage.
Mitchell led the Hilanders with 23 points, five rebounds and three assists. Mitchell, Kelso’s senior wing, has been with the program all four years, going through the ups and downs of high school life with the COVID-19 pandemic thrown in the middle. His head coach was happy to see Mitchell finish his time on Kelso’s home court in style.
“It’s great for him. He’s essentially been a four-year starter for us and you know he’s gone through a couple years of COVID and he’s had his own personal ups and downs,” coach Kinch stated. “He’s always been a great worker and always embodied our program. Really cool to see him flourish on a senior night.”
Likewise, Mitchell was happy to see each one of his senior teammates see a few minutes and make their own contribution to the win on senior night.
“I’m just glad it was a good senior night for everyone to get in there and that all of the guys kind of get to shine for a little bit,” Mitchell insisted. “Recognizing the four years and all the work the seniors put in. I’m just glad it was a stress free game for the most part.”
Kelso’s Easton Marshall puts up a shot form the perimeter during a game against Heritage, Wednesday, Feb. 1 at Kelso High School. Marshall scored 11 points in a 76-38 win over the T-Wolves.
Easton Marshall scored 11 points and Hayden Yore added eight. Seniors Zeke Smith and Blake Eastham each had six points and Gunnar Burt and Naiser Lukas chipped in five. So Kelso outrebounds Heritage 30-25.
Kelso (11-8, 6-1 league) opened the second half with a 13-0 run as Heritage was unable to make a field goal for the first seven minutes of the third quarter. At that point, coach Kinch rotated in the better part of his bench and the Hilanders slipped the game into cruise control.
Kelso’s Michael Henderson pushes the ball up court during a 76-38 win over Heritage, Wednesday, Feb. 1 at Kelso High School.
“(Tonight) felt good because all the seniors out there have a great bond. I’ve been friends with them ever since I came here,” Eastham said.
With wins over Mountain View and now Heritage already this week, Friday’s regular season finale against Evergreen looms large.
Kelso’s Payton Stewart puts up a shot in the post during a game against Heritage, Wednesday, Feb. 1 at Kelso High School. Stewart scored six points in a 76-38 win over the T-Wolves.
“January is kind of a month of either moving or moving down. We were able to get our feet on the ground in the month of January and I think we’ve shown improvement along the way and now we’re one win away,” said Kinch. “But our message stays the same; We want to play our best game of the year against Evergreen on Friday.”
For his part, Mitchell noted he has bigger goals than a potential 3A GSHL title.
“I think we want to go beyond that,” Mitchell said. “Try to get a chance to go to the (Tacoma) Dome actually and improve beyond the baseline of a league championship.”
Kelso’s Hayden Yore brings the ball across half court during a 76-38 win over Heritage, Wednesday, Feb. 1 at Kelso High School.
Eastham, another senior who isn’t ready for the end, was on board with that mentality.
“We just want to keep playing great,” he said. “Keep that bond on the floor and the team chemistry up, I think it will help a lot for this team to keep pushing forward through all we have left.”
Get in the game with our Prep Sports Newsletter
Sent weekly directly to your inbox!