GOLDENDALE - The road to the State 'B' tournament is looking well paved for the Mabton High School boys basketball team. The only question for the emotionally-driven Vikings is which road they want to take to Spokane.
The Vikings, who are the northern division's No. 2 seed, won last night's loser-out District opener over Glenwood, the southern division's No. 3 seed, 69-47 at Goldendale High School.
The win over the Eagles puts the Vikings very much in control of their postseason destiny. Mabton matches up this Friday night in a Regional seeding game at Sunnyside High School against Trout Lake in the 8:15 p.m. game. The winner of this game will face Friday's winner of the Sunnyside Christian vs. Riverside Christian contest, on Saturday, for the District title and an automatic berth to State. The No. 2 out of Districts will gain a first-round Regional playoff bye next weekend in Ellensburg.
The Greater Columbia 'B' League is pooling postseason berths with the North Central League, which features teams such as Waterville and Manson. The two District champions from each league will play for the Regional title while the other six teams will fight for the two remaining State playoff spots.
Mabton Coach Brock Ledgerwood felt his team played well last night against Glenwood. He said the big difference between last night and the first time the two teams met, a game which Mabton barely won, was the Vikings played better defense.
"We played pretty well," said Ledgerwood. "We showed up and played some defense."
The Eagles looked as if they were going to make a game of it early on, as both teams posted a 14-point opening period. The Vikings went to a zone defense in the last couple of minutes of the second quarter, which led to several fastbreak scores for Mabton. Ledgerwood said Mabton was able to put some pressure on the guards last night with its zone defense. The Vikings also did a nice job of taking away the inside, said Ledgerwood.
Tanner Beeks was about the only person who kept Glenwood in the first half, as he scored 13 of his 17 points during the first two quarters.
Mabton put an exclamation point on the game in the third quarter with a 21-5 run. Trent Steinbock scored all five of the Eagles' points in the period, which included a 3-pointer.
With a comfortable 57-32 lead going into the fourth quarter, Ledgerwood went to his bench with about four minutes left to play. Mitch Wheelhouse scored 11 of Glenwood's 15 points in the period.
Ledgerwood had a lot of praise for the efforts of Pedro Huecias. Ledgerwood said Huecias led the Vikings on the floor.
Ledgerwood went back to the intensive defensive play of Mabton as a key to the victory.
"We stopped the ball and we were able to deny them," said Ledgerwood. "We just clamped down."
Ledgerwood added that the Vikings also made several conservative shots during the game. He said most of Mabton's shots were taken from within six feet of the basket.
"We were real patient," said Ledgerwood.
The Vikings didn't shoot much from downtown, sinking 4-of-6 from 3-point land.
A.J. Valencia and Ricardo Huecias played well for the Vikings last night with 16 points apiece. Andy Rodriguez had another solid effort with 5 points, seven rebounds, six assists and five steals.
Ledgerwood said this coming Friday's game against Trout Lake is huge. The Mustangs won a double-overtime thriller in Mabton earlier this season on a last second shot. Ledgerwood said this time around, Mabton is going to have to pick up the defensive intensity like it did last night against Glenwood.
"They (Trout Lake) are a quick team," said Ledgerwood. "We just have to keep them from attacking."
Friday night's game is key because a win will put Mabton in the District title game and gain the Vikings at least a No. 2 seed into Regionals, giving them a bye.
"It is a big game for us," said Ledgerwood. "If we get this one, we just have to win one out of two games (after that) and we will go to State."
. Mike Kantman can be contacted at (509) 837-4500, or email him at email@example.com
1 2 3 4 T
Glenwood 14 13 5 15 47
Mabton 14 22 21 12 69
Scoring: Mabton-A.J. Valencia 16, Ricardo Huecias 16, Alex Zavala 9, Frankie Mariscal 9, Andy Rodriguez 5, Manuel Palacios 4, Ryan Harris 4, Pedro Huecias 4, Rafael Martinez 2.
Glenwood-Tanner Beeks 17, Mitch Wheelhouse 15.
Rebounds: Andy Rodriguez 5.
Assists: Andy Rodriguez 6, Pedro Huecias 5, Alex Zavala 4.
Steals: Pedro Huecias 7, Andy Rodriguez 5.