SPOKANE - The DeSales High School boys basketball team won't forget Mabton's A.J. Valencia any time soon.
DeSales and Mabton met in the consolation bracket of the State 'B' basketball tournament yesterday at the Spokane Arena in what will go into the record books as a classic game. Both teams ended up in the consolation bracket after suffering losses to Neah Bay and Republic, respectively, on Wednesday night.
Valencia brought an end to the touted Irish season as he drained an NBA-range 3-pointer just as time was expiring, easily the shot of the tournament, to give Mabton a 56-53 win.
"It was a pretty intense game," said Mabton Coach Brock Ledgerwood.
Ledgerwood said he was glad to see his team come out and play like it did following Wednesday's lopsided loss to tourney favorite Republic.
Ledgerwood said he talked with his team Thursday at halftime about not giving up, telling the Vikings about how the Irish relinquished a significant lead in Wednesday's game against Neah Bay.
DeSales also made a mistake, felt Ledgerwood, by trying to match speed with the Vikings. Ledgerwood thought DeSales would have provided a much more potent defensive threat.
"I didn't feel they pressed us enough," he said. "I think our team defended them well."
The game ended when the Vikes ran about 45 seconds off the clock with the scored tied at 53. With three seconds left on the clock, Valencia launched a beautiful, arcing 3-point shot that hit nothing but net. The win over the Irish put the Vikings in today's consolation game against a familiar foe, Riverside Christian, at 12:30 p.m. The winner of today's loser-out game will meet the winner of the Sunnyside Christian vs. Waterville game on Saturday at 12:30 p.m. for the fifth and eighth place trophies.
Mabton opened the game with a 5-0 run behind a 3-point bucket from Alex Zavala, who finished with 18 points, and another basket from Andy Rodriguez. Ricardo Huecias then turned a 3-point play to give Mabton an 8-0 lead with 5:39 left in the first quarter. The Irish finally found their way on the board when Cesar Lopez hit a 3-pointer. Lopez would cause fits for the Vikings in the first half, when he scored 9 points. But Mabton held Lopez scoreless in the second half. Zavala and Valencia scored the final two buckets of a conservative offensive first quarter to give Mabton a 12-10 lead. Mabton had problems stopping the Irish from penetrating in the first quarter.
Valencia hit a 3-pointer to open the second period for the Vikings, giving Mabton a 15-10 lead. The Irish pulled within one point at 17-16 midway through the second quarter on back-to-back buckets from Kyle Moore and Nick Conley. The Vikes turned the ball over three consecutive times prior to the run by the Irish. Valencia scored six of the eight Mabton points in the final three minutes of the first half to help the Vikings maintain a 27-25 lead going into the break.
Momentum switched in favor of DeSales to start the third quarter. After a missed shot and a foul by Zavala, Moore tied the game at 27 with 6:51 to go in the third. DeSales took its first lead of the game when Casey Worth hit a 3-pointer with 6:08 left to give the Irish a 30-28 lead. DeSales took away Mabton's inside game, where the Vikes found success in the first half. The Vikings would cut and slash through the paint in the first half to score, but the Irish collapsed on the pocket in the second half, making it a perimeter game for the Vikes. The Irish took their biggest lead of the game, 38-32, with 1:38 to go in the third after a 3-pointer from Worth. Zavala hit a running jumper right before the buzzer to cut the Vikings' deficit to 40-36 going into the final period.
The Irish made some crucial mistakes in the fourth quarter, as DeSales opted to play Mabton's style of basketball-running the floor. The Vikes ran some half-court traps that DeSales crumbled under in the fourth quarter. Ledgerwood said the defense of the Vikings was something DeSales couldn't handle towards the end of the game, as the Irish didn't have the speed to match up.
Valencia started the ball rolling early in the fourth quarter, when he hit the first of his four 3-pointers in the period. Valencia's 3-pointer with 7:12 left pulled Mabton to within 42-39. Valencia followed up with another 3-pointer to tie the score at 42 with 6:27 left. With 6:08 on the clock, Valencia powered inside for another bucket to give Mabton a 44-42 lead, which led to a DeSales timeout. With 4:50 on the clock, Worth drained another 3-pointer to pull the Irish within one point, at 47-46. DeSales climbed back on top off a powerful drive to the basket by Moore. Ricardo Huecias kept Mabton within striking distance at 49-48 with his bucket at the 3:45 mark. Zavala put Mabton up 53-49 with 2:58 left on the clock. DeSales took advantage of some Viking miscues late in the game, when Michael Richard, who had a team-high 19 points for the Irish, connected on a short jumper with 1:45 to go, forcing a Viking timeout. Richard tied the score at 53 with under a minute on a hard move inside. Mabton then decided to hold for the last shot of the game. After taking 40-plus seconds off the clock, Valencia unleashed an unforgettable 3-point shot that ended the Irish's season as it swished through the net. The officials put 2.1 second backs on the clock after a DeSales timeout, but the Irish couldn't make anything happen as they had to go the length of the court.
Ledgerwood said he was pleased with the performance of Valencia, who was one of the few bright spots for the Vikings against Republic. Ledgerwood felt the Viking freshman showed how he is really capable of playing.
Ledgerwood said a win at the State tournament for a young team like Mabton is crucial for the future of the program.
"I think it is really good," said Ledgerwood. "Any kind of experience they can get here will only help them."
1 2 3 4 T
DeSales 10 15 15 13 53
Mabton 12 15 9 20 56
Scoring: Mabton-A.J. Valencia 25, Alex Zavala 18, Ricardo Huecias 5, Andy Rodriguez 4, Ryan Harris 2, Manuel Palacios 2.
DeSales-Michael Richard 19, Kyle Moore 12, Casey Worth 9, Cesar Lopez 9.
Rebounds: Alex Zavala 5, Andy Rodriguez 3.
Assists: A.J. Valencia 3, Andy Rodriguez 3.