ZILLAH - The Mabton Vikings, the SCAC East's No. 1 seed, beat the SCAC West's No. 2 seed, the Goldendale Timberwolves, 80-59 this past Saturday at Zillah Middle School to secure a berth in the SCAC District finals next Saturday, Feb. 19, in Toppenish.
"What can I say, we simply shot the lights out from the field and we shot well from the free throw line, as well," Mabton Coach Brock Ledgerwood explained.
The Timberwolves have eight players at least six feet or taller. The Vikings have none. So it's not unexpected that Goldendale was able to control the boards. Goldendale held a 37-22 edge on the boards against the Vikings but Mabton used its speed and accuracy to even things out.
The Vikings shot 54 percent from the field and 43 percent from the 3-point line. At the free throw line, Mabton shot 70 percent.
Compare that with Goldendale's 36 percent from the field and 16 percent from beyond the 3-point arc and it's easy to see how the Vikings won. The Timberwolves did shoot 64 percent from the charity stripe.
"I felt we controlled the tempo of the game and got the shots we wanted all night," Ledgerwood added. "We got great shots and the kids knocked them down. By getting the great shots we also limited their transition opportunities, which was key to controlling the tempo and really helped our effort defensively."
The first eight minutes of the game went back and forth with both teams getting the inside shots they wanted. With the scored tied at 10 Mabton's Joel Gutierrez entered the game off the bench and a hit a 3-point shot to end the quarter and give Mabton the lead.
He scored another 3-point basket early in the second and that was followed by two more from Josh Strickland and the Vikings led 19-10. Two minutes later Jesus Huecias hit Mabton's fifth straight 3-point basket and the Vikings led by 15 points. Goldendale never got closer than 12 points after that.
Ledgerwood said his team's goal at halftime was to just win the third quarter. The Vikings did, 18-14. In the fourth quarter Mabton picked apart Goldendale's attempt at a press trap and the Vikings scored easily. Goldendale kept the pressure on with great offensive rebounding in the fourth, Ledgerwood said.
"We knew they would make a run at us, but every time they did our kids stepped up and stopped their run," Ledgerwood said. "I feel that our senior leadership has really shined the last couple of games. These kids believe in themselves and each other."
Ledgerwood praised the play of Huecias and Kristian Carrasco for the defensive job the two did on the Timberwolves. He said the Mabton players limited Goldendale's two guards to no points, after the Timberwolves' guards combined for 20 points when the two teams met earlier in the season.
The Vikings were led by Carrasco with 22 points, 13 of those scored in the fourth quarter. Carrasco also went 8-for-10 at the free throw line, grabbed six steals, had five assists and recorded five rebounds. Huecias finished the game with 14 points and six assists. Josh Sanchez finished with 13 points, 11 of those in the second half. Strickland added 11 points for Mabton. Carmen Johnson scored nine points. Gutierrez added nine points and Lorenzon Sanchez had one point.
Goldendale was led by Reed Lindhe with 18 points and eight rebounds. Kaden Millren added 16 points for the Timberwolves and Blake Lesko had 10 points and six rebounds.
Mabton (19-3) will face Granger for the District championship this coming Saturday at 8:30 p.m. at Toppenish Middle School. This is a rematch of last year's District championship game that the Vikings lost.
If the Vikings win, they stay at home as a Regional No. 1 seed and play at Eisenhower High school. If Mabton loses, the Vikings will have to travel to Mead High School in Spokane for the Regional tournament.