YAKIMA - Call it first time State jitters or just a case of playing at 9 a.m., the Mabton Vikings got off to a very slow start in the first round of the 1A State basketball tournament this morning (Wednesday).
The Vikings took on the Cashmere Bulldogs at 9 a.m. and after taking a 2-0 lead to start the game, the Vikings wouldn't lead again until midway through the third quarter. That lead would be short lived as Mabton would end up falling 48-45 in a thrilling finish.
First quarter scoring action was limited as neither team had any luck putting the ball in the basket. After Mabton's initial 2-0 lead, the Bulldogs ran off six straight points before settling on an 8-4 lead after one quarter.
"I think it was a little bit of the State tournament jitters," Mabton Coach Brock Ledgerwood said. We were forcing things a bit and trying to do too much."
He said the early start had nothing to do with it, noting both teams had to play that early.
In the second quarter Cashmere continued to add to its lead, running off 12 straight points to hold a 20-4 advantage before Mabton could score with 3:45 left in the half. Mabton's Frankie Smith hit two free throws to start the Vikings on a run of their own.
Forcing turnovers and grabbing steals, the Vikings went on a 7-0 run to close to 20-11. After Cashmere scored off a Mabton turnover to make it 22-11, the Vikings used two baskets by Juventino Morfin to climb to 22-15 at halftime.
"We kept battling," Ledgerwood said. "We made some adjustments and some kids picked it up."
In the third quarter Mabton continued right where it left off, continuing a 19-2 run that gave the Vikings the lead at 23-22 with 4:33 left in the third quarter.
After that both teams settled down and exchanged the lead a couple of times before the Bulldogs were able to go up by three points at the end of the third period, 29-26.
Midway through the fourth quarter Cashmere extended its lead to nine points and after Mabton battled back, the Bulldogs again extended its lead by 10 points with just under three minutes to play.
"I told them not to panic, but to keep taking the ball to the basket," Ledgerwood explained.
Eric Tellez made a basket to start Mabton's run and after a free throw from Smith, he hit a three point shot that brought Mabton to within three points with 1:37 left in the game.
Cashmere extended its lead to 44-39 until Tyler Herrera made a lay-up to cut the lead back to three points. A lay-up by Cashmere's Drew Ross stretched the Bulldogs' lead back to five points until a basket by Tellez and Smith brought Mabton to within one point with nine seconds left in the game.
Mabton fouled quickly and Michael Miller calmly sank two free throws to put Cashmere back up by three points.
With eight seconds left Tellez attempted a three-point shot that would have tied the game but the ball bounced off the front of the rim as time expired.
"Tellez had a good look," Ledgerwood said. "It's all we could ask for. He's our captain and our leader. He gave us a shot to tie it."
Tellez said he felt good about the shot.
"I felt when I released it, it was going in but it hit the front," he said.
Tellez led the Vikings with 12 points and seven rebounds. Herrera contributed eight points and Smith added seven points.
Cashmere was led by Ross with 17 points and Miller with 10.
The loss puts Mabton into the losers bracket, where they will play the loser of the Onalaska and Nooksack Valley game, tomorrow (Thursday) at 9 a.m.