One year after making the State basketball tournament for the first time in eight years, the Mabton High School boys basketball team finds itself looking for a repeat trip to Spokane. Only this time around, the Vikings are going to have to win back-to-back elimination games to get back to the confines of the Spokane Arena.
The Vikings will go into this coming weekend's Regional tournament, which is a combination of the North Central District and the Greater Columbia 'B' League, as a No. 3 seed. Mabton will have to win two loser-out games at Ellensburg High School Feb. 25-26 to make it back to the State tournament.
The Vikings will open Regional play Friday at 4:45 p.m. against the loser of the Moses Lake Christian/Pateros game that is scheduled to be played later this week. If the Vikings win Friday night, they will face the winner of the Riverside Christian versus Entiat/Waterville game on Saturday at 5:15 p.m. in Ellensburg for the third and final berth to State.
Mabton gained a trip to Regionals by beating Lyle this past weekend at Sunnyside High School in the Greater Columbia 'B' League District tournament.
The Vikings managed a trip to Regionals despite some miserable shooting in the District tournament. In Friday night's 64-48 loss to Sunnyside Christian, the Vikings were only 35 percent from the field. In Saturday night's loser-out 44-37 victory over Lyle, Mabton shot 36 percent from the field.
In Friday's loss to Sunnyside Christian, Mabton Coach Brock Ledgerwood said the big difference in the game was his team's shooting.
"I thought we got a lot of good, open looks," said Ledgerwood.
Sunnyside Christian made good from the free throw line, going 22-for-30, including a 12-for-16 stint from the line in the fourth quarter. Mabton was only 6-for-9 from the free throw line for the entire game.
Ledgerwood said he felt his team played aggressive and wanted to win the game, but he also believed Mabton should have been at the free throw line a few more times.
The Knights burst out to a 19-5 lead. Ledgerwood said the Vikings left a couple of key players, Chad Den Boer and Jordan Haak, open in the first quarter and they made some baskets.
Ledgerwood said he felt his team played fine in all other areas, except shooting.
"They (SCHS) hit their shots and we didn't," said Ledgerwood. "We had some opportunities to get back in the game."
Despite the loss, Alex Zavala had a tremendous night, scoring 21 points. Zavala entered Friday night's game fresh off a 21-rebound night against Trout Lake earlier in the week, the third highest rebound total in school history. Zavala had six rebounds against Sunnyside Christian.
"Alex really wanted it pretty bad," said Ledgerwood.
Ledgerwood gives Lyle a lot of credit. He said the Cougars played hard in Saturday's elimination game.
"Lyle did a good job of making us earn everything," said Ledgerwood.
The struggling offense of the Vikings found some life in the middle two quarters to pull away from Lyle. Mabton outscored Lyle 27-19 in the second and third quarters.
"We got a few shots to go in," said Ledgerwood. "We kind of got a little bit of a flow going."
A.J. Valencia had the standout game for the Vikings, dropping in 19 points, despite getting hurt in the first quarter. Valencia had three 3-pointers that helped spark the Vikings.
Ledgerwood said he is glad to still be playing in the postseason and looks forward to this weekend and the possibility of getting back to State.
"We have the opportunity to go up and put ourselves in the State tournament," said Ledgerwood. "It is just a good opportunity for us."