SPOKANE - The teams the Mabton Vikings drew at the State 'B' tournament in Spokane proved to be formidable.
Both of the games the Vikings lost at State were to two of the top finishers. Mabton lost to eventual State champion Republic on the opening day of the tournament. The Vikings then beat DeSales on Thursday to stay alive one more day. Mabton's run at State came to an end on Friday, losing to Riverside Christian 69-52. The Crusaders went on to place fifth at State, which is the highest a team that lost on the opening day of the tournament can finish. The Crusaders defeated Waterville, which entered the State tournament as the top ranked 'B' boys team, in the game for the fifth and eighth place trophies.
"It makes you feel a little bit better when you lose to two teams that do well," said Mabton Coach Brock Ledgerwood.
Mabton simply couldn't slow down a hot-shooting Riverside Christian team Friday afternoon. The Crusaders shot 67 percent from the field, said Ledgerwood.
The first half ended up getting out of hand for the Vikings. After a close opening quarter, which the Crusaders won 12-9, Riverside Christian blew open the game with a 23-13 run in the second period.
Trevor Pynch was virtually unstoppable in the first half for Riverside Christian, said Ledgerwood. Pynch scored 15 of his 18 points in the first half. Pynch also added seven assists for Riverside Christian.
"He was able to penetrate really well," said Ledgerwood of Pynch.
The Mabton coach added the Crusaders were basically unstoppable.
"They were just hitting everything," said Ledgerwood.
The Crusaders had three 3-pointers in the opening half and went 5-of-7 from downtown for the game.
Mabton struggled offensively against the zone defense of the Crusaders.
But, the Vikings received some stellar efforts from A.J. Valencia and Andy Rodriguez Friday, although Mabton didn't benefit with the loss of Alex Zavala. Zavala was limited in his play on Friday because of a knee injury that has been bothering him all season.
Valencia, a Viking freshman that hit the game-winning shot against DeSales, had a game-high 22 points Friday. Rodriguez also broke double digits with 12 points. Valencia was also 8-for-9 from the free throw line for the game.
Valencia had a tremendous run at State, scoring 60 points in three games for Mabton. Ledgerwood said Valencia looked sharp at State and will be one of the anchors for Mabton next year.
The Crusaders forged a 22-point lead early in the fourth quarter. The Vikings were able to get the lead down to 11 points with two minutes to go. But the Crusaders were exceptional from the free throw line in the clutch, hitting 8-of-11 from the charity stripe in the final two minutes.
Ledgerwood said he is more than pleased with the way the season ended, despite not bringing home a trophy. The Vikings ended up second in the Greater Columbia 'B' League's northern division with a record of 10-3. Mabton finished the year with an overall record of 17-10 and its first berth to State in eight years.
"Most of the people really didn't expect us to be there (State) at the beginning of the year," said Ledgerwood. "I think our future is bright."
The Vikes lose four seniors-Manuel Palacios, Frankie Mariscal, Andy Cervantes and Ricardo Huecias-off this year's squad to graduation.
. Mike Kantman can be contacted at (509) 837-4500, or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org
1 2 3 4 T
Mabton 9 13 12 18 52
Riverside 12 23 16 18 69
Scoring: Mabton-A.J. Valencia 22, Andy Rodriguez 12, Ricardo Huecias 8, Frankie Mariscal 6, Ryan Harris 2, Manuel Palacios 2.
Riverside-Josh Horsley 19, Trevor Pynch 18.