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Chemeketa men take 2013 NWAACC basketball championship

Edmonds' Stefan Johnson (3) and Joey Reavley (11) block Chemeteka's Calvin Molan on Tuesday during the NWAACC championship game at Toyota Center in Kennewick.

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Chemeketa men take NWAACC basketball championship

By Craig Cracker, Tri-City Herald

The Chemeketa men’s basketball team found itself in a familiar position Tuesday -- trailing against its opponent.

The Storm responded to that situation by doing what it does best -- scoring points and playing stout defense.

Chemeketa rallied past Edmonds Community College to win the NWAACC title 84-79 at the Toyota Center in Kennewick.

“We knew we’d been here before, and we kept our composure,” said Chemeketa’s Jordan Batey, who earned first-team all-tournament honors.

The Storm trailed 79-78 with a minute to go, watching a six-point lead evaporate in a 20-second span.

But rather than panic, the Storm got a layup from Jonny Howard and then a big defensive play from Trevor Phillips. Batey made four free throws, and the Storm won its first title since 1999.

“The thing with this group is they have been resilient,” Chemeketa coach David Abderhalden said. “They’ve learned how to not panic in any situation.”

The Storm, which used a 27-5 run to erase a 21-point deficit in the final 7 minutes of Monday’s semifinal game, played team basketball throughout to beat Edmonds.

Chemeketa’s best player, Gavin Kauffman, played just 16 minutes before fouling out. But even without Kauffman on the floor, the Storm would not be denied.

Phillips, a Hermiston graduate, scored 19 points in the first half and had a key block on a layup attempt with his team clinging to a one-point lead with less than 40 seconds left.

“I think we were a step ahead of Edmonds,” said Phillips, who was named the tournament MVP. “We were in this position last year, and we were very nervous and didn’t play well at the start.

“(This year) we were calm and collected, and I think it showed (late).”

The Storm lost the 2012 title game to Tacoma, 110-98, but they would not be denied this time.

Edmonds seemingly took control early in the second half, using a 14-2 run to take a 51-42 lead.

But the Storm used a 10-0 run of its own to retake the lead. It was a see-saw battle from then on.

“We know that teams go on runs,” Batey said. “But we knew our defense is everything. Any deficit we get, we can overcome it. The defensive end is what helps our offense go the most.”

The Storm held the Tritons to 39.5 percent shooting from the field, getting into the Tritons’ passing lanes and causing Edmonds to be offensively stagnant at times.

“They learned how to play for each other rather than with each other,” Abderhalden said of his squad. “That’s been our whole thing — what you can achieve together. This is a special group of kids.”

The title is the second for Abderhalden and the fourth for the program.

“It’s an amazing feeling,” Phillips said. “This group is my family, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.”

Phillips finished with a game-high 21 points and eight rebounds, while Batey had 16 points and seven rebounds. Calvin Molan scored 13 points, including three 3-pointers as he helped stretch the offense.

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