The Mabton Viking boys basketball team improved its record to 5-2 in SCAC West league play, and 12-3 overall, with two close wins this past weekend.
On Friday Mabton gradually built up a lead over host Naches Valley, then held on for dear life in a 47-45 victory.
Mabton was ahead by five at the half, 20-15, and by six points, 32-26, heading into the fourth and final quarter. The Vikes built their lead to 10 points early in the final stanza before the Rangers' top scorer, Adam Ranger, led a late charge. Ranger had been held scoreless to that point, but tallied all eight of his points in the late going to help Naches forge a 45-45 tie.
Mabton's Michael Conradt helped turn the tide back in the Vikings' favor, taking an offensive charge, then canning one-of-two free throws the other way to make it a 46-45 lead. That gave Mabton the lead for good, as in the final seconds the Vikings' J.T. Reynolds added one more free throw. Naches had one final, last gasp, chance, but Austin Alexander's 10-foot shot rimmed out at the buzzer for the Rangers.
Conradt, he of the late charge and deciding free throw, led Mabton in the paint with seven rebounds to go with nine points. Kristian Carrasco paced the Vikes in scoring with 12 points and five assists, while Reynolds chipped in nine points and six rebounds.
Weston Parker led Naches with 15 points.
It was Mabton that needed a late rally in Saturday's game at home against Goldendale.
The Vikings rallied from four points down in the final minute to earn a 60-58 win over the Timberwolves. Things were tight from the outset as both teams were tied at 14-all after one quarter and Goldendale clung to a narrow 29-27 edge at the half.
But in the third stanza Mabton appeared ready to have the game in hand, outscoring Goldendale 19-11 to lead the T-Wolves 46-40 heading into the fourth quarter.
Goldendale answered in the final stanza, though, using an 18-8 run to go up 58-54 in the final minute of regulation.
Fouls played a key part in the ebb and flow of the game, as Mabton's reserves had to fill in to replace Viking starters in foul trouble.
As it turned out, free throw shooting also proved pivotal in that final minute of play after the Timberwolves grabbed the lead.
Carrasco canned a three-point shot off an offensive rebound to cut the Goldendale lead to 58-57. The Timberwolves came up short on two free throws the other way, and Mabton's LeeTroy Rodriguez made the T-Wolves pay by hitting two free throws on the other end to put the Vikes up to stay at 59-58. After a defensive stop, Rodriguez wrapped up the evening's scoring by netting one-of-two free throws. That left Goldendale with only enough time for a cross-court desperation toss that bounced off at the buzzer.
"It was a difficult game to play and coach," Ledgerwood said of the struggles both teams had with fouls. "Our bench did an outstanding job picking up for starters who were in foul trouble."
Among the Mabton starters in trouble was J.T. Reynolds, limited to just seven minutes on the court because of fouls.
Carrasco led a trio of Mabton players in double figures, tallying 18. Tony Mendez and Frankie Smith scored 11 and 10 points, respectively, for the Vikes. Rodriguez added seven points and a team-high nine rebounds.
The tough victories this past weekend put Mabton squarely in the postseason mix for the SCAC, especially after handing Naches its first league loss of the season.
"This was an important week for us. It is crunch time for us now and to get three league wins in a week is big," said Ledgerwood. "We can control our own destiny by taking one game at a time and taking care of ourselves. We have league games left, but I believe these kids are up for the challenge."
The road to the postseason indeed gets tough this coming weekend as Mabton hosts perennial SCAC contender Zillah this coming Friday, then squares off with Lower Valley rival Granger (5-1 in league play) at the SunDome this Saturday as part of Rivalry Saturday.
The Mabton boys tip-off at the dome at 3:30 p.m. and the girls at 5 p.m. Ledgerwood said pre-sale tickets from Mabton coaches are available for $6 or $7.50 at the door.