The Willapa Valley Vikings and Taholah Chitwhins won their regional-round games this weekend to earn a trip to their respective state tournaments.
Willapa Valley 51, Friday Harbor 37
In a conversation with The Daily World last week, Willapa Valley head coach Jay Pearson stated he believed his team’s size and length would give Friday Harbor fits when the two teams faced off in a 2B Regional game on Saturday at Tumwater High School.
He couldn’t have been more correct.
The Vikings held the Wolverines to five points through nearly the first 12 minutes of the game en route to a 51-37 victory and a trip to the 2B State Tournament in Spokane.
“I think that’s what they learned (last season) in Spokane is that everyone plays great defense,” Pearson said. “You’ve got to play great defense. If you don’t, you’re not in the game and you’ve got to limit teams. Surprisingly, our height and length did bother them, but they outrebounded us by three in the first half. So our statement was at halftime: Defense and rebounding will win this game.”
Despite its strong defense early in the game, Willapa Valley (18-8 overall) failed to fully capitalize on the opportunity, leading 10-5 after one quarter.
The Vikings stretched the lead to 11 points at 16-5 in the second frame on a Logan Walker basket in the paint at the 4:33 mark, but Friday Harbor (12-10) responded by cutting the deficit to 16-13 after an 8-0 run.
Back-to-back buckets by Walker and Beau Buchanan pushed the Vikings lead out to 20-13 with less than a minute to go in the half.
The two teams traded baskets over the final 19 seconds as Willapa Valley entered the locker room with a 22-15 lead.
“I think we were playing their game in the first half and settling for outside threes rather than pound the ball inside and using our strength inside,” Pearson said after stressing to his team to work the ball into the paint where the Vikings had a distinct advantage. “That was our thing, attack the basket and rebound.”
The Vikings did just that in the third quarter, working the ball to the interior to get high-percentage shots, free-throws and kick-outs for open threes. Chad Flemitis put the Vikings up by 10 with a three to open the second half and with the Vikings holding a 13-point lead with just under two minutes left in the third quarter, buried another 3-pointer to put the Vikings up 37-21.
A Buchanan basket from the low block followed by a pair of Flemitis free-throws in the final minute put the Vikings up 41-23 heading to the fourth quarter.
Flemitis opened the fourth with a layup and was followed by an Allen Deniston 3-point play to extend the Vikings’ lead to 47-26 with five minutes to play and all but assuring a Willapa Valley victory.
“All week at practice, we’ve been talking really well,” Walker said of the Vikings’ communication, which he felt was what has keyed their increased level of play over the past few games. “That’s the thing we’ve been missing all year. We’ve been using our voices to know when switches are coming, when screens are coming. We kind of knew their flex (offense). We knew when they were going to run it. We were prepared.”
Walker also reiterated words his coach uttered that the recent play of post players Deniston and Buchanan has helped the team reach the next level of competition. Walker and Deniston each finished with 14 points to lead the Vikings while Flemetis scored 12 and Buchanan finished with nine points and 11 rebounds for Willapa Valley.
“Allen (Deniston) has been playing great the last two games,” Walker said. “I think he realized it’s his senior year and it’s time to go and when our scoring is as balanced as it has been the last two games, we’re hard to stop.”
Willapa Valley faces a red-hot Onalaska team at 5:30 p.m. on Wednesday in the first round of the 2B State Tournament at the Spokane Veteran’s Memorial Arena.
Taholah 68, Mount Vernon Christian 58
Taholah (19-3) defeated the Mount Vernon Christian Hurricanes (13-14) by a score of 68-58 in a 1B Regional matchup on Friday at Tumwater High School.
The No. 9 Chitwhins will face No. 8 Oakesdale at 2 p.m. Wednesday in the first round of the 1B State Tournament at Veteran’s Memorial Arena in Spokane.
No further information was provided at the time of this writing.