Great moments are born from great opportunities." So said Herb Brooks, coach of the United States hockey team that stunned the Russians at the 1980 winter Olympics.
After suffering its first back-to-back defeats of the season two weekends ago, the Mabton High School boys basketball team made the most of its opportunity this past Friday and knocked off the seemingly invincible Riverside Christian Crusaders, the top ranked 'B' team in the state.
The Vikings won the game, 58-48, behind a dominating display of teamwork. All night, the Crusaders could never seem to get a handle on Mabton, as the Vikings just kept coming and coming and coming. It was the first defeat of the season for Riverside Christian.
It looked as if a senior-filled Riverside Christian squad was going to run away with the game, winning the opening tip and scoring within six seconds to start the game. But the opening tip was about the only thing the Crusaders won Friday night.
The first quarter saw the Crusaders get in foul trouble. Alex Zavala ended up giving the Vikings a lead they would never relinquish when he hit 1-of-2 free throws to put Mabton up 8-7 with 4:54 left in the first quarter. The Vikings started to pull away with the game when Zavala hit the first of his two 3-pointers in the opening period at the two-minute mark, giving Mabton a 15-8 lead. Zavala hit his last 3-pointer of the opening quarter with under five seconds left to put Mabton ahead 22-12.
In the opening quarter, Riverside Christian ran a 2-2-1 and a 2-3 zone defense that Mabton kept attacking, finding the gaps.
Besides Zavala, the Vikings had several other players step forward in the first quarter. Andy Rodriguez helped set the tone for the Vikings, as he was a presence inside early on. The Vikings also did a nice job of rebounding, as Frankie Mariscal and Manuel Palacios had putbacks on the offensive glass. Ryan Harris had a key shot fall for the Vikings with 40 seconds left in the opening quarter to put Mabton up 19-10.
The one dent in the armor of the Vikings Friday night was Mabton's inability to slow the game down effectively. The Vikings struggled against the pressure defense of the Crusaders, as they tried to milk the clock, especially in the second period.
The Crusaders put together a bit of a run in the second quarter. With 6:02 left, Riverside Christian's Josh Horsley canned a 3-pointer to pull the Crusaders within 26-17. Mabton unraveled a bit, as the Vikes had consecutive turnovers with a five-second violation call and a travel go against them. Horsley hit another bucket and teammate Trevor Pynch buried a 3-pointer to pull Riverside Christian to within 26-22 with 4:35 left in the first half. But, back-to-back buckets from Mariscal and Zavala put Mabton up 30-22 with 2:55 left in the half. Riverside Christian's Josh Hampton powered inside for the Crusaders' last bucket of the first half to cut the deficit to 30-24.
The start of the third quarter didn't look promising for the Vikings. Mabton turned over the ball and was called for a three-second violation leading to two Riverside Christian buckets. Matt Vye pulled the Crusaders to within three points, 33-30, when he scored off a fastbreak. After another missed shot by Mabton, the Crusaders pulled to within the closest they would get, 33-32, with 3:45 left in the third after a bucket from Horsley. Mabton regained momentum in the game after a couple of foul calls went against the Crusaders.
Up 37-32 to open the final period, freshman A.J. Valencia got things rolling for Mabton with a 3-point play. Valencia drove inside scored and was fouled. Mabton missed a golden opportunity to build on that lead when Riverside Christian's Matt Horsely was called for a charge. The Riverside Christian senior then received a technical foul for slamming the ball to the ground. Crusaders Coach Bruce Seibol argued with the official and received a technical for his antics. But the Vikings missed the pair of free throws and then turned the ball over on the ensuing play.
With about five minutes left in the game, the Crusaders varied from their zone defense, implementing a trap scheme just inside half-court with which the Vikings had a few problems. Fortunately for Mabton, the trap by the Crusaders led to a number of foul calls against the top ranked team in the state. Ricardo Huecias nailed a crucial free throw for the Vikings with just over four minutes in the game remaining to put Mabton up 43-36. The Crusaders pulled within 45-41 with 2:25 left before Valencia put in a lay-in while left wide open under the basket, giving Mabton a 47-41 lead. The Crusaders had a 3-point shot go in and out of the basket on the ensuing play. The Vikings then found success at the free throw line to finish out the game. Zavala hit five free throws, Rodriguez added three more from the charity stripe and Palacios hit another two free throws down the stretch to give the Vikings the win. On the Crusaders' last offensive series they missed three 3-point attempts.
"We felt as if we had a good game plan," said Mabton Coach Brock Ledgerwood. "It was a total team effort by us."
Ledgerwood went into the game wanting to spread out the defense of Riverside Christian.
Ledgerwood said there were many keys to Friday night's win, including a good job of rebounding.
"We were in great defensive position (to grab rebounds)," said Ledgerwood. "Rebounding was huge for us."
The Vikings were also effectively able to dictate the pace of the game, said Ledgerwood.
"We made them work for everything," he added.
Mabton was extremely effective in attacking the defense of Riverside Christian, which led to some good, open shots being drained by the Vikings. Ledgerwood said when the Vikings took careless shots on the floor, the Crusaders were able to run with the ball and score.
Defensively, the Vikes were able to slow down the potent offense of the Crusaders by keeping players in front of them with a hand in their face, said Ledgerwood.
Ledgerwood said he was extremely proud of his Vikings Friday night. Ledgerwood said he told his players before the game started that they wouldn't get many chances like the one put before them Friday night.
"The kids were confident in themselves," said Ledgerwood. "They made the most of their chance."
. Mike Kantman can be contacted at (509) 837-4500, or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org
1 2 3 4 T
Riverside 12 12 8 16 48
Mabton 22 8 7 21 58
Scoring: Mabton-Alex Zavala 18, A.J. Valencia 9, Ricardo Huecias 8, Andy Rodriguez 8, Ryan Harris 4, Manuel Palacios 4, Frankie Mariscal 4, Pedro Huecias 3.
Riverside-Trevor Pynch 16.
Rebounds: Frankie Mariscal 8, Alex Zavala 7, Ricardo Huecias 6.
Assists: Alex Zavala 5, Manuel Palacios 4.