MABTON - A couple of key questions arose from last night's encounter between Greater Columbia 'B' League boys basketball powerhouses Mabton and Sunnyside Christian.
The first for the Vikings is how do they want their season to end? Because last night was not the best example of Vikings basketball.
The other question that might be posed, by the Knights, is who's going to stop us now? Sunnyside Christian put on a powerful display of teamwork last night, beating Mabton 66-43.
The win by the Knights ensured Sunnyside Christian at least a share of the Greater Columbia 'B' League northern division crown. It is the sixth time in the last seven years Sunnyside Christian has won the league title. The Knights have one more obstacle in their way to claim the league title outright, and that comes Friday night at home against LaSalle.
As of right now, Riverside Christian still holds a chance of sharing the league title with Sunnyside Christian, following the Crusaders' win over LaSalle last night. If the Crusaders win Friday night at Yakama Tribal and the Knights lose to LaSalle, both teams would share the league title. The catch for the Knights is that they would go into the postseason as a No. 2 seed with a loss Friday night, based on a preseason number draw to break tiebreakers. The Crusaders would then hold the top seed and not have to play in the opening round of Districts next Tuesday at Goldendale.
The loss last night brought the Vikings a No. 3 seed and a game against Trout Lake next Tuesday night at Goldendale in the nightcap of the opening round of Districts at 8:15 p.m.
There is not much to say about Tuesday night's game from the Knights standpoint, as Sunnyside Christian was solid on all levels.
Sunnyside Christian Coach Dean Wagenaar said he went into the game with the standpoint that if the Knights, currently ranked third in the State polls, play their game than things should turn out alright.
"We were going to do what we had to do," said Wagenaar. "Going in, we knew we would have to match their emotion. I felt the boys did a great job. We maintained our composure."
The surprise of the night had to be the play of Sunnyside Christian's Derek Van de Graaf, who stood tall on the defensive end. Van de Graaf denied the inside where Mabton is usually explosive, as the Knights kept it a perimeter game.
"We wanted to make it a perimeter game for them offensively," said Wagenaar. "We really took them out of their comfort zone."
The best way to describe the evening for the Vikings is they didn't look uncomfortable, but they didn't look comfortable either.
"We played hard," said Mabton Coach Brock Ledgerwood. "We just had some breakdowns defensively."
Mabton didn't look like the same team without Andy Rodriguez, who is currently not playing for academic reasons.
The missing piece of the Vikings' three-man offensive attack was sorely needed last night, as one of Mabton's key threats, Alex Zavala, was taken out of the game early after picking up three fouls in the first half. Ledgerwood said it was a significant turn in the game when the usually high scoring Zavala, who finished with just 6 points, picked up his third foul in the second quarter.
"Right before that, he got some things going," said Ledgerwood.
Ledgerwood said he felt Zavala having to go to the bench was key because he was doing a nice job defensively on Chad Den Boer. Den Boer started opening up his game as soon as Zavala went to the bench on his way to a game-high 25 points, including five 3-pointers.
Andrew Schutt built an early lead for the Knights, scoring a couple of baskets right away to set the tone. The Knights opened with a 12-5 run in the first period and finished the game off with a 20-12 outing in the fourth quarter. The Knights outscored Mabton 34-26 in the middle two quarters.
The closest Mabton got in the second half was 10 points with 4:27 to go in the third quarter. The Vikings were never within less than 11 points after that.
Wagenaar said about the only fault he could find with his team last night was they got a bit careless with the ball in the third quarter. Wagenaar said the Vikings were able to get some easy buckets in transition.
"I thought offensively we did a nice job," said Wagenaar. "The boys didn't take any bad shots."
Ledgerwood said his team struggled in stopping Sunnyside Christian from penetrating inside.
"They did a good job of getting into the key," said Ledgerwood.
Ledgerwood said he felt the difference was momentum. He said the Vikings were able to move well against the zone defense of the Knights, but the ball just didn't fall Mabton's way.
"We had some good shots inside," said Ledgerwood. "We couldn't get the ball to go in the bucket."
Ledgerwood also felt the play of Den Boer was huge for the Knights.
"Every time we started to make a run, Chad would make a bucket," said Ledgerwood.
Ledgerwood said Ryan Harris, who finished with 9 points, had some key minutes for the Vikings.
"He really went up strong," said Ledgerwood.
One part of the game Ledgerwood didn't like was how his team kind of took itself out of the game.
"We got a little down on ourselves," said Ledgerwood. "They have got to keep their heads up."
Sunnyside Christian moved to 11-1 in league play and 18-1 on the season going into Friday's home game against LaSalle.
"If we win, we are the number one seed," said Wagenaar.
The Vikings finished the regular season with a 8-5 league mark and 15-5 overall. However, two of Mabton's losses were forfeits involving games against Glenwood and Bickleton, which they had already won. Mabton played an ineligible player. Mabton Athletic Director Denny Brown said as soon as he discovered the error, the school reported the incident, resulting in Mabton having to forfeit the two games. The Vikings will still be the No. 3 seed at the District tournament.
1 2 3 4 T
SCHS 12 18 16 20 66
Mabton 5 16 10 12 43
Scoring: SCHS-Chad Den Boer 25, Jordan Haak 15, Andrew Schutt 10, Matt Haak 9, Derek Van de Graaf 7.
Mabton-A.J. Valencia 23, Ryan Harris 9, Alex Zavala 6, Eric Tellez 5.
Rebounds: SCHS-Andrew Schutt 9, Derek Van de Graaf 5, Sean Tudor 5.
Mabton-Alex Zavala 7.
Assists: SCHS-Andrew Schutt 5, Sean Tudor 2, Matt Haak 2.
Mabton-Pedro Huecias 4, Alex Zavala 3.