SPOKANE - The much taller Republic Tigers (25-1) jumped out to a 21-10 lead on the Mabton High School boys basketball team last night and coasted to a 71-45 State tournament first round victory.
Wednesday's loss put the Vikings (16-8) into a State tourney consolation round game against the DeSales Irish today (Thursday), slated for 2 p.m.
Mabton opened last night's 7:30 p.m. Class 'B' State tournament game by forging a 5-2 lead on the Tigers.
"But, Republic tied the game at 7-7, then went on a 14-1 run against us," said Viking Coach Brock Ledgerwood. "After that, we were just playing catch-up.
"Republic is a good, fundamental team. They took advantage of every mistake we made," Ledgerwood said.
The Tigers were also adept at scoring, canning 59 percent of their shots from the field. Many of those buckets came from up-close, as 6'4" Gabe Giddings and 6'6" Kyle Lehn combined for 26 points. Republic, too, received a 20-point effort from sophomore Zack Gianukakis, the son of the Tigers' head coach. Tyler Orestad added a 12-point effort for Republic.
"They (Republic) got a lot of easy looks," said Ledgerwood.
Mabton's offensive guns last night were A.J. Valencia and Alex Zavala. Valencia knocked down 9 of his team high 13 points in the third quarter. Zavala pumped in 9 points in the opening period enroute to scoring 12 points. Zavala got into early foul trouble and had to sit for most of the second quarter.
Republic forced the Vikings into committing 21 turnovers last night, while the Tigers only coughed up the ball 11 times. Republic's defensive alignment also held Mabton to 28 percent field goal shooting.
Mabton put together a couple of offensive spurts in the second half, "...but nothing that really threatened them," said Ledgerwood. The Vikings, while outscored 37-16 in the first two quarters, only got outscored by a 34-29 margin in the second half.
In looking ahead to today's 2 p.m. loser-out game against DeSales, Ledgerwood said the Irish are similar to his Vikings in that both clubs like to spread the floor, and neither team is very tall. DeSales, which is located in Walla Walla, looked like it had its opening round game at State locked up against Neah Bay, only to watch as Neah Bay went on a 13-3 run at the end of the game to pull out a 52-45 victory.
In addition to the 25 combined points tallied by Valencia and Zavala yesterday, Mabton got 4 points apiece from Frank Mariscal, Andy Cervantes and Andy Rodriguez. Scoring 2 points apiece for Mabton were Rafael Martinez, Pedro Huecias, Ricardo Huecias and Ryan Harris.