NACHES - The final score won't reflect it, but the Mabton Viking boys hoop team gave State contender Naches a scare last night before falling to the Rangers 75-52.
Thursday's first-round SCAC District playoff game saw the visiting Vikes trailing by just two points with two minutes to play in the first half.
Mabton played the Rangers twice during the regular season and lost by 17 and 18 points, so the Vikes had to feel good about their chances in the final minutes of the first half.
"We switched from a man defense to a zone and that slowed down their momentum," Mabton Coach Brock Ledgerwood said of hanging tough with the Rangers despite an early 9-2 run by Naches. "We switched back to a man and kept them off guard."
The game changed in the final two minutes of the opening half, when Naches went on an 11-2 surge to grab a 42-31 lead at the break.
"We had a couple of tough calls go against us and we let our guard down," Ledgerwood said of the pivotal run late in the half. "They scored three possessions in a row and we had two or three turnovers."
Down by double digits, any hope Mabton had of getting back in the game was crushed by a Ranger 22-6 scoring run in the third quarter to put the contest away.
"They took over in the third quarter," Ledgerwood said. "It didn't matter what we did, they were hitting shots and getting after it."
Naches, with a trio of players standing at 6-4 or taller, helped its cause by outrebounding the smaller Vikings 37-24.
Ledgerwood says the combination of size in the paint and pressure defense gives the Rangers a chance to go far in the postseason.
"They're a good enough team to compete for a State championship. They're big and athletic," said Ledgerwood, who has coached several State tourney teams.
Naches was sparked by 6-4 post player Thane Pierson with 17 points and nine rebounds. The Rangers also got a boost from a pair of 6-5 players, Cameron Walker and Jeremy Gaudette, who tallied 18 and 15 points, respectively.
The Rangers' leading scorer, 6-1 guard Derek Hauck, was held to 10 points but dished out eight assists.
Mabton was paced by Josh Sanchez, who at 6-1 is the tallest Viking player, with 22 points. Luis Ruiz gave the Vikes a boost with 15 points, 13 in the first half, to go with four steals.
Andrew Gutierrez and Alex Reyna chipped in seven and six points, respectively, for Mabton, while Lorenzo Sanchez climbed the ladder for six rebounds.
Mabton now faces a loser-out District tourney game tomorrow, Saturday, against Goldendale. Ledgerwood said the game will either be played at Wapato High School or Toppenish Middle School, depending on the outcome of the Mabton girls playoff game tonight.