Before No. 2 Union and Kennedy Catholic played Thursday in a state quarterfinal game at the Tacoma Dome, Richland’s victory over Federal Way guaranteed that there would be a new 4A champion this season.
After Union’s dominating 73-49 victory over the Lancers, there is reason to believe that new champion might be the Titans, who will play No. 8 Richland in Friday’s semifinals.
“That was one of our goals to go as far as we can in the state tournament, and obviously, the guys played really well today,” Union coach Blake Conley said. “We have a tough test ahead of us, but for a little bit we’re just going to enjoy being in the semifinals and enjoy being here.”
Union jumped out to a 16-5 lead, but Kennedy closed the first quarter on a 10-2 run to cut the Titans’ lead to 18-15. Union answered that run and then some to start the second quarter, scoring the first 15 points of the period to take a 33-15 lead.
“I think we got some good looks in the first quarter, but a couple of them didn’t fall,” Conley said. “We were pleased about it, we just had to keep on pushing the ball. Our guys are really unselfish, they share the ball extremely well and they were able to get some guys open and we’ve got some guys that can hit some shots.”
Cameron Cranston led the way for the Titans, finishing with 18 points and nine rebounds. The 6-foot-6 senior made seven of his 14 field-goal attempts, including 4-for-9 from 3-point range.
“This is Cam’s third state tournament, and he loves the big stage,” Conley said. “You take it for granted and you kind of expect him to make those shots, but I thought he was really tough today.”
Senior guard Keithen Shepard added 17 points for the Titans.
“He averages around seven or eight (points per game), but he’s a do-it-all player for us,” Conley said. “He took what the defense gave him and he was able to get in the lane and finish some shots. He was kind of our engine that made us go today.”
Shepard shot 8-for-13 from the field, including a buzzer-beater from 30 feet to end the first half.
“It’s awesome,” Shepard said. “It was just so much fun being able to play with my best friends growing up. I owe it to them, spacing the floor. It’s really easy when everyone is hugging the 3-point line, and I can just slip in there and get some easy buckets.”