Jackson Grant got the best of Kaden Perry in a high-profile big-man showdown, and the second-ranked Olympia High School Bears got a much-needed victory against a playoff-caliber Class 4A opponent.
Grant had 15 points and 11 rebounds, and the Bears got a game-high 20 points from Kai Johnson in a 67-46 victory over Battle Ground on Saturday night in Olympia.
Perry had 14 points before fouling out in the fourth quarter. It was the Tigers' first loss after a 5-0 start.
Here are three game observations:
IT IS RARE TO GET TWO TALENTED, TOWERING PLAYERS OF THIS MAGNITUDE PLAYING AGAINST EACH OTHER IN A HIGH SCHOOL GAME
There was certainly a different buzz about this non-league matchup.
Two of the state's best big men - and recruits in the 2021 class - were facing off.
Grant is 6-foot-10, and committed to the University of Washington. Perry is 6-9, and headed to Gonzaga University.
Grant has springs in his legs, but Perry is even bouncier. Both showed that off Saturday.
In the third quarter, Perry made three baskets on fabulous spin moves to get past Grant.
But Grant was a beast on the boards, grabbing two offensive rebounds over Perry for putbacks.
Perry fouled out with less than six minutes remaining on an offensive charge. Grant stayed in for a few more possessions after the Bears built a big lead before substituting out.
Perry said it was the best he's seen Grant play against him in four meetings (three in high school, one in AAU).
"(Perry) is super athletic and strong. His moves inside, he is really quick," Grant said. "And his shot has gotten a little bitter - and straighter."
CALM DOWN, OLYMPIA FANS - THE SLOW START WASN'T GOING TO LAST
They were ready to sound the panic siren in Olympia after the Bears dropped two of their first three games, including 4A SPSL losses at Rogers of Puyallup and Sumner.
Bears coach John Kiley saw a breakthrough in the past two practices - and it carried over to the home opener Saturday.
"Early in the year, our tempo was off - and our connectivity was off," Kiley said. "We still have a long ways to go, but we’ve worked through some of the psychological issues that hit you at some point in the season - and maybe they’ve hit us earlier than I’ve ever seen."
The Bears put the game away with a 12-0 run to start the fourth quarter in building a 58-38 advantage.
BE ENCOURAGED, BATTLE GROUND FANS, THE TIGERS ARE PLAYOFF-CALIBER
After graduating six seniors off last year's state-tournament squad, coach Manny Melo admittedly faced a few unsettled issues heading into the offseason.
But he returned Perry, a bona fide go-to player - in any circumstance. And sharp-shooter Nate Millspaugh had made a better-than-expected transition to point guard (and his 30-foot shooting range has not suffered, either).
The Tigers have good early-season victories over Mount Rainier and Kentwood, both of the 4A NPSL.
"For them to come out and play really hard defenses and make adjustments throughout the season have been big for us," Melo said.