CLE ELUM - In what Mabton Coach Brock Ledgerwood called a "trap game," the Viking boys basketball team went on a 17-2 tear in the fourth quarter to escape last place Cle Elum with a 47-39 victory last night.
Tuesday night's win, The Vikes' seventh consecutive victory, improved Mabton's league record to 9-2, and kept them tied for first place with Naches Valley.
While Mabton may have been looking ahead to what is now an SCAC West title game at home this Thursday against Naches, Cle Elum, winless in league play, was hosting its senior night.
"We played tentatively and played not to lose instead of playing to win," Ledgerwood said. "Cle Elum outplayed us for 28 minutes and led by seven with four minutes to go."
Mabton found itself in that dire situation as Cle Elum gradually built a two-point lead at the half, up 21-19. The Warriors then got the lead to seven heading into the fourth quarter thanks to a 16-11 run in the third stanza.
Still down by seven points and four minutes from a huge upset loss, Mabton took over the ballgame, outscoring Cle Elum by 15 points in the fourth quarter.
"We turned up the energy on offense, hit the offensive boards, and got to the free throw line," Ledgerwood said. The charity stripe was kind to the Vikes, who connected on 10-of-14 attempts in the fourth quarter while Cle Elum was 0-for-4.
Mabton also started finding an advantage in the paint in crashing the offensive boards.
"The free throws and rebounding got us some badly needed points in a game that we shot horribly from the field," Ledgerwood said. "We struggled and Cle Elum battled, but we dug deep and found a way to win in the fourth quarter."
Ledgerwood singled out the play of Mabton senior captain Frankie Smith, noting his leadership... "helped keep us in the game until we found that missing link that got us back on track."
Kristian Carrasco led Mabton's scoring attack with 14 points to go with five steals.
J.T. Reynolds recorded a double-double for the Vikings, tallying 11 points and hauling down 11 rebounds. Reynolds capped off his stellar night with a game-high seven steals.
Smith helped feed the Mabton offense with four assists.
Cle Elum was led by Justin Cushing and Greg Strom, with 13 and 11 points, respectively.
The win now sets up a battle for the SCAC West crown against Naches this Thursday in Mabton. The Vikes beat the Rangers earlier this season, denying Naches a three-point shooting game.
The winner of tomorrow night's game will advance to the District tourney as the SCAC West's number one seed, while the loser will get the second seed. Both teams are assured of hosting first-round District games.
"We have already secured a home court District game, but our next goal is to hang our first league championship banner in 12 years," Ledgerwood said of Thursday's game with Naches. "It will be a tough battle that will help our kids when we get to the tough battles of the District tournament."
The coach is hoping to see Mabton's fans out in force Thursday. "We are looking to our fans to pack our house on Thursday night and give us that extra energy and send our seniors out in style," Ledgerwood said.