MABTON - The No. 9 ranked Mabton Vikings won their ninth straight game last night, defeating Columbia-Burbank 74-61 in a key SCAC East match-up.
The win on the Vikings' home floor gives Mabton a three-game lead over the second place Coyotes (4-3, 8-7) with just five games left in the regular season. Last night's win also kept the Vikings undefeated in league play. Mabton has beaten each of the five teams the Vikings have remaining on their schedule.
The Coyotes got off to a good start last night in the first two minutes of the game and led 8-4, until Mabton's Kristian Carrasco got going. The senior scored 29 points in the contest, including 24 first-half points.
Mabton Coach Brock Ledgerwood said Carrasco's quickness and knowledge of the game makes him a formidable force on the court.
"He's just so quick and able to anticipate things," he said.
Ledgerwood said Carrasco's quickness enabled him to dribble right through Columbia-Burbank's defenses and penetrate for easy lay-ins. He finished with five rebounds, four steals and four assists before leaving the game.
The Vikings were able to turn the tide early in the first quarter after trailing by four points. Ledgerwood deployed a full-court pressure defense which allowed Mabton to get some steals. The Mabton players then turned those steals into easy lay-ins.
Columbia-Burbank quickly fell behind and Mabton led 23-15 after the first quarter. The Vikings extended that lead to 39-29 at halftime.
Ledgerwood said every time the Vikings threatened to blow the game wide open, a Columbia-Burbank player would hit a 3-pt. shot. Mabton led by as many as 15 points at one time but the Coyotes would always cut the lead back down to 10 points.
Mabton did this for the most part without the help of 3-pt. shots. The Vikings hit only two of them in the game, going 2-for-5. Mabton shot 55 percent from the floor, however, going 29-for-52, most of them lay-ins.
The Vikings led the Coyotes in rebounds, out boarding Columbia-Burbank 33 to 20. Ledgerwood said he was happy with his team's rebounding, adding that Mabton has been able to out rebound teams the past four games.
Mabton was able to cause more turnovers against Columbia-Burbank, causing the Coyotes to cough up the ball 17 times. The Vikings themselves turned the ball over just 10 times.
Josh Strickland added 13 points and grabbed six rebounds for the Vikings. Teammates Carmen Johnson had 11 points and six rebounds, and Josh Sanchez added 10 points.
The Coyotes were led by Tanner Woody with 12 points and Dyllon Smith with 11 points.
"We controlled the tempo of this game for most of the way," Ledgerwood said. "We're hoping to keep this thing going tonight."
Mabton (7-0, 12-3) will travel to Finley tonight, Jan. 21, to play the Riverview Panthers at 7:30 p.m.