YAKIMA – The best may be yet to come.
Laden with underclassmen, this year’s Mabton High School girls basketball team goes down as the best Lady Vikings squad that has taken the court in the last 25-plus years. It’s the first Mabton girls team that has played at State since 1986.
Although the Lady Vikes dropped both of their games at the Class 1A State tourney last Thursday and Friday in the Yakima Valley SunDome, Mabton (19-7) has everyone back next season.
And, the future looks even brighter for the Lady Vikes, considering Mabton is dropping down into the Class 2B ranks next season.
Mabton Coach Chris McCallum said he believes strongly that the Lady Vikings have a chance to compete in the State tournament next year because of the talent that his team possesses.
“This was not just the first time Mabton has competed at State in the 1A, but the first time Mabton has ever competed in the final eight,” McCallum noted, stating the Lady Vikes in 1986 were in the Sweet 16 at a State tourney, but did not advance to the trophy rounds.
After dropping its opening game at State last Thursday by a 43-27 score to the Blaine Borderites, who went on to place fifth, Mabton needed a consolation round victory on Friday to advance to Saturday’s trophy contests. The Lady Vikings nearly got that win against the Okanogan Bulldogs.
Up 36-25 at the half, and still ahead by a 47-39 margin heading into the final quarter, Mabton couldn’t stay with the Bulldogs down the stretch. Okanogan rallied in the final eight minutes, outscoring the Lady Vikes 18-6 to eke out a 57-53 win.
“Today we just didn’t play our typical fourth quarter…rebounds hurt us again. They took advantage of our foul trouble and the (20) turnovers at the end cost us,” said McCallum.
“It’s okay…Okanogan is a great team. They are well-coached…they are very talented.”
He noted Okanogan is also dropping down to 2B next season, adding he won’t be surprised if Mabton and Okanogan end up playing in next year’s 2B State title game.
The spirited, late-game rally last Friday was ignited by Okanogan’s Jill Townsend. She pumped in nine of her team-high 21 points in that final stanza, which included hitting the go-ahead bucket with two and a half minutes remaining.
Janice Romero, also in double figures for the Bulldogs with 14 points, popped in another 2-pointer for Okanogan a minute later, putting Mabton in a 54-51 hole.
The Lady Vikes ended up turning the ball over four times after Townsend’s go-ahead basket, which resulted in Mabton getting off just three shots in the final two and a half minutes.
“To have a 13-point lead says much about Mabton’s ability,” said McCallum, noting that although the Lady Vikings gave up the lead in the final quarter, he knows Mabton has the skills needed to win just such a game given another opportunity.
Friday’s loss may have been a tough pill to swallow for the Lady Vikings, considering Mabton took full charge of the loser-out game in the second quarter.
Trailing Okanogan 19-11 after the opening period of play, the Lady Vikes turned to Soila Zaragoza and Alyssa Nash the second quarter. The duo sparked Mabton in piecing together a 25-6 run, which put the Lady Vikings ahead by a 36-25 count at halftime.
Zaragoza, only a sophomore, dropped in 14 of her game-high 23 points during that stretch. Three of her five field goals in the second quarter came from beyond the 3-point arc. She finished the game hitting 4-of-5 trey attempts.
The 5-7 guard also led Mabton in rebounding by collecting seven loose balls. Zaragoza, too, came up with a team-high three steals against Okanogan and dished two assists.
Nash, the other second-quarter star for Mabton, chipped in eight points during the pivotal run by the Lady Vikes. The 5-7 junior finished the game with 16 points on 7-of-13 field goal shooting.
Okanogan, which went on the following day to defeat the Granger Spartans for the fourth-place State trophy, opened Friday’s contest against Mabton with a 10-0 run.
The Lady Vikes, in desperate need of a spark to catch fire, got it from 5-5 junior Cassidy McCallum. She bombed in a trey for Mabton’s first basket of the game, nailed another 3-point howitzer a minute later to cut Okanogan’s lead to 12-6, then delivered yet another bomb from downtown two possessions later to get the Lady Vikes to within 12-9.
McCallum said, “Cassidy is streaky like that…she had a great first half.”
The Bulldogs regrouped after the third trey by McCallum, scratching out a 7-2 run through the last four minutes of the opening period.
Overall for the game, Okanogan shot at a 50 percent clip from 2-point range, making 21-of-42 shots. Mabton was 12-for-25 on its 2-point field goal attempts.
From behind the 3-point line, the Lady Vikings made 8-of-23 shots, compared to Okanogan’s 2-of-10 stats.
The Bulldogs outscored Mabton from the free throw line by a 9-5 margin.
Okanogan also got the better of the Lady Vikes on the boards, tallying 37 rebounds to Mabton’s 24.
“We had to experience this to take things to the next level…the team is taking in the loss. We had emotional highs and emotional lows,” McCallum said, stating he believes this year’s State tournament experience will make the Lady Vikings eager to return next year.
Okanogan 19 6 14 18 -57
Mabton 11 25 11 6 -53
2-PT FG – Okanogan 21/42 (Jill Townsend 9/15, Janice Romero 6/7), Mabton 12/25 (Alyssa Nash 6/9, Soila Zaragoza 4/11, Desanay Guerrero 2/3). 3-PT FG – Okanogan 2/10 (Alexis Jones 1/1, Cayden Diefenbach 1/2), Mabton 8/23 (Soila Zaragoza 4/5, Cassidy McCallum 3/5). FT – Okanogan 9/12 (Jordyn Boesel 4/6, Jill Townsend 3/4, Janice Romero 2/2), Mabton 5/7 (Soila Zaragoza 3/3). RBD – Okanogan 37 (Jordyn Boesel 10, Keanna Egbert 5), Mabton 24 (Soila Zaragoza 7, Desanay Guerrero 5, Cassidy McCallum 4). TO – Okanogan 18, Mabton 20. STEALS – Okanogan 15 (Jill Townsend 4, Janice Romero 3), Mabton 8 (Soila Zaragoza 3, Alyssa Nash 2, Desanay Guerrero 2).
Okanogan – Alexis Jones 7, Cameron Moses 0, Alexis Romero 0, Jordyn Boesel 6, Keanna Egbert 0, Cayden Diefenbach 9, Janice Romero 14, Jill Townsend 21
Mabton – Irene Pineda 1, Rieley McCallum 0, Cassidy McCallum 9, Alyssa Nash 16, Adriana Zaragoza 0, Cristina Espinoza 0, Caitlin Escoto-Rojas 0, Soila Zaragoza 23, Desanay Guerrero 4