YAKIMA - Tonasket fans probably think Mabton basketball coach Brock Ledgerwood is crazy. Mabton fans know he's crazy, crazy like a fox that is.
Showing there's more than one way to skin a cat, the Viking coach used a ploy he calls Duke and Mabton's Tyler Herrera showed he has ice in his veins as Mabton beat the Tonasket Tigers 38-33 this morning (Friday) and earned a chance to play for fifth place tomorrow in the 1A State tournament.
Friday morning's game started without hardly any offense as each team felt each other out. Mabton was unable to penetrate Tonasket's zone and turned the ball over three times in the first three minutes. The Tigers couldn't get much going either as they turned the ball over once and missed two field goal attempts.
It wasn't until Mabton's Juventino Morfin fouled Roy Osborne as he went to the basket that either team got on the scoreboard. With 5:28 left in the first quarter Osborne sank two free throws to put the Tigers up 2-0. He then scored 26 seconds later with a lay-up and all of a sudden Tonasket was up 4-0.
A Dan Stoddard three-point shot added to the Tigers' lead and Mabton was down 7-0.
The Vikings looked timid and out of sync on offense but Mabton's defense was firing on all cylinders. Mabton forced a turnover and Enrique Huecias made a lay-up to get Mabton on the board with 2:58 left in the period.
The Vikings' defense smothered the Tigers for the rest of the quarter and then Herrera nailed a three-point shot to bring Mabton within two at the end of the quarter.
To start the second quarter Mabton still was having a tough time penetrating the lane against the much larger Tonasket team. The Tigers employed a zone defense that was working effectively. Mabton could only shoot from the outside so Herrera drained a three-point shot that gave the Vikings their first lead of the game, 8-7.
Stoddard hit two free throws for the Tigers and Osborne made a lay-up to put Tonasket back up 11-8 with 5:55 left in the half. That's when Ledgerwood brought out the Duke.
Mabton held the ball at half-court for 5:51 without moving. Herrera and Frankie Smith took turns standing right inside the half-court line as Tonasket stayed in its zone around the basket. One minute passed, then two, then three and still there was no action from the Vikings.
After four minutes of holding onto the ball, the Tonasket fans were going nuts and even the Mabton fans were urging their team to shoot the ball.
It was to no avail as Mabton held the ball until the final seconds and then started a move towards the basket.
"The ball was supposed to go to Tyler (Herrera)," Mabton's Eric Tellez said. "We messed up and it was passed to me. I saw how much time was on the clock so I shot it."
The ball hit nothing but net from 15 feet away and Mabton went into halftime trailing 11-10.
"In my opinion that was the biggest shot in the game," Ledgerwood said.
"After I hit that shot our team got pumped up," Tellez added.
"Our motto this year has always been, we have to make them play our game," Ledgerwood explained. "Our defense kept us in the game during the first quarter but they (Tonasket) play a tough zone and it was tough."
Ledgerwood said he wanted to force the Tigers to play Mabton's game, which is man-to-man, and it worked.
Sol Jones, the coach of the Tigers, said he thought the ploy Mabton used would work in his team's favor.
"We weren't going to play their game," he said.
Tonasket came out in the third quarter and built a 16-10 lead before Mabton could mount a comeback. Herrera tied the game at 16 and then Tellez stole the ball and made a fast break for the basket. He was fouled as the ball went in and he calmly sank the free throw to give Mabton a 17-16 lead that would never be relinquished.
"Once we got the lead we knew we could beat them," Tellez said. "After that, we played our game."
Mabton used Tiger turnovers to score points and at one point the Vikings held a nine-point lead with a little more than four minutes to play in the fourth quarter.
Still, the Tigers had some fight left. Tonasket was able to climb back to within two points, 34-32 on a Stoddard three-point play. On the inbound pass Mabton fumbled the ball and Tonasket's Gerad Moser had an open look for an easy lay-in. He missed but Osborne grabbed the rebound and attempted to put the ball back, but also missed. Osborne again got the ball and shot it but missed again. The ball then went out of bounds off a Mabton player.
"He couldn't of gotten a better look at the basket," Ledgerwood said of Moser's shot. "Someone was looking out for us."
Mabton got the ball back after another Tiger miss and then Herrera stepped up and hit free throws for the Vikings down the stretch. He went 3-for-4 from the charity stripe in the last 14 seconds to seal the win for Mabton
"All I do is clear my mind and think of something interesting," Herrera said of his time at the free throw line. "Sometimes I sing a song."
"Give Tonasket a lot of credit," Ledgerwood said. "They could have given up when they were down by nine points but they fought back."
Jones added the Tigers had their opportunities.
"We couldn't hit our shots at the end," he said. "Mabton's a quick team. We stayed strong with our game. It was a fun ride getting here to the State tournament. It's all about what they (the Tigers) take away from it. The passion and the memories."
"Athletically, Tonasket was better than us," Ledgerwood said. "We're the second or third smallest 1A school in the state. Our defense took their leading scorers out of their element.
"After a 10-11 season, no one really thought we'd be here. We beat Connell and then Granger (in Districts) and after that I knew if we played our game we could go far. Nobody thought we'd be a trophy team. Bottom line, the kids believed it."
Mabton was led by Herrera with 15 points. Tellez and Huecias each scored seven points for the Vikings and Morfin contributed five points. Tellez added four steals in the game as well.
Osborne and Stoddard each had 11 points for the Tigers.
Mabton will now play for the fifth place trophy against Riverview, which defeated Columbia-Burbank today. Saturday's trophy round game will be at 10:30 a.m. The loser will place eighth.