NACHES - Trying to secure second place in the SCAC West all for themselves, the Mabton Vikings boys basketball team went into Naches with a mission. But Naches Valley's Wesston Parker came alive for 14 second-half points that helped the Rangers edge Mabton by one point, 39-38.
The Vikings jumped out to a quick lead in the first quarter, going up 10-2 behind a solid defensive effort.
"Our focus was stopping Wesston Parker, their 6'5" post and they (Naches Valley) tried to get it (the ball) in to him," Mabton Coach Brock Ledgerwood said. "We sent different defenders at him and double teams all night."
In the second quarter the Vikings' hot hand went cold, both from the field and beyond the three-point arc. The only offense Mabton managed in the quarter were two put-backs by Josh Sanchez. The Vikings led 14-11 at halftime.
In the second half Parker separated himself from the other Rangers by scoring three lay-ups in the third quarter and then going 8-for-8 from the free throw line in the fourth.
The second half play was back and forth but Naches Valley opened a five-point lead midway through the fourth and the Vikings could never catch up.
"Our outside shots were not falling and we were getting frustrated with their size in the zone," Ledgerwood said. "When we can't hit the outside shots, teams will pack the paint on us."
Ledgerwood said his team needs to do a better job of being patient on the floor. The Vikings will need to do a better job of finding openings and getting three-points shots to fall if they want to do well in the post season. The Vikings went to the free throw line last night only three times.
"That is another area that we must do better at against the zone," Ledgerwood added. "If we can't get to the free throw line and our shots don't fall, it is tough to beat good teams.
"I was happy with our effort defensively to hold a good team down under 40 points," he said. "That is the type of effort we need to continue throughout the playoffs."
Derrick Nash led the Vikings with 11 points. He was followed by Kristian Carrasco with nine points. Sanchez had six points and grabbed five rebounds. LeeTroy Rodriguez finished with four points and seven rebounds. Carmen Johnson had four points, as well.
The Rangers were led by Parker with 21 points.
The loss drops Mabton's record to 8-4 in SCAC West play, which ties them for second place with the Rangers. The Vikings hold the tiebreaker against Naches Valley so they earn the #2 seed to Districts. Mabton will host Columbia-Burbank (#3 seed) on Tuesday, Feb. 16, at 7 p.m.
"We have to be ready as last year Columbia-Burbank was the #3 seed and beat us at home in the first round of the playoffs," Ledgerwood said. "We hope to have our fans packing the gym to make it a tough place for our opponents to play."
Mabton finishes the regular season with a 13-7 record.