MENLO — With their big gun muffled in the second half, Ocosta’s boys found enough other weapons to emerge with a much-needed league victory.
The Wildcats came from behind in the second half for a 54-53 win over Willapa Valley in a Pacific League boys basketball game Monday night at Tenoski Gym.
Two young, undersized teams — neither at full strength — combined for an entertaining if somewhat ragged contest.
Junior guard Zach Allton almost singlehandedly kept Ocosta afloat in the first half, firing in 22 points to keep the Wildcats (2-3, 4-4) within two at 32-30.
At the behest of his brother, assistant coach Jon Pearson, Willapa Valley head coach Jay Pearson switched defenses in the second half. Ryon Ashley was given the primary defensive responsibility on Allton, receiving double-team help when the Wildcat standout touched the ball. The shift helped the Vikings (2-3) hold Allton scoreless in the final two quarters.
But Allton, according to Ocosta coach Jason Quinby, recognized the situation and volunteered to serve as a decoy in the second half while his teammates picked up the slack.
Drake Mitby, the only senior on either team to see action, bagged eight of his 13 points in the third quarter. Then sophomores Kobe Beck and Paul Bjornsgard did much of the damage in the final period.
That enabled the Wildcats to overcome double-doubles from Valley’s Ashley and Matt Pearson. The latter finished with 20 points and 10 rebounds, while Ashley contributed 13 points and 10 boards.
“Ashley did a great job on Zach, but the other guys stepped up,” Quinby said. “By no means was this a pretty game, it was pretty ugly at times…but to come onto the other team’s court and steal a win at the end is a great feeling and hopefully gives us confidence going forward.”
Up by as many as nine in the first half, Willapa Valley led for the majority of the first three quarters. But Ocosta’s pressure defense, largely ineffective in the first half, helped force the Vikings into 16 of their 25 turnovers in the second half as Quinby shifted his troops into a 1-3-1 full-court press that accelerated the pace.
“They took us out of our comfort zone, but we’re a young team,” Jay Pearson noted.
The Vikings were also an abysmal 3 of 11 from the foul line.
Beck’s 3-point basket with 6:14 remaining in the game gave Ocosta its first lead since late in the first quarter. Matt Pearson’s three-ball at the 3:18 mark put Valley back in front, 50-48.
After Beck tied it with a pair of free throws, Bjornsgard drove for a layin and a 52-50 lead with 1:30 left.
Both teams missed several opportunities in the final minute before Bjornsgard and Cole Hatton each made one of two foul shots in the last 15 seconds to increase the margin to four.
Pearson canned an off-balance three with three seconds left. Out of timeouts, however, the Vikings were unable to stop the clock. Although the Wildcats weren’t required to inbound the ball, they did so successfully as time expired.
Bjornsgard had nine rebounds and Beck six steals for Ocosta.
Five-eleven freshman Peter Hamilton led Valley rebounders with 11. The Vikings were without starters Walker Oblad (toe injury) and Leonel Ruelas (family vacation).
The Wildcats host Raymond on Wednesday. The Vikings travel to Chief Leschi on Thursday.
Ocosta 14 16 12 12 — 54 W. Valley 18 14 12 9 — 53
Ocosta (54) — Bailey 3, Allton 22, Beck 6, Bjornsgard 5, Mitby 13, C. Hatton 1, Waara 2, Wardlow 2. FG — 19-56 (.339). FT — 8-17.
Willapa Valley (53) — M. Pearson 20, Ashley 13, Flemetis 9, Roonsburg 2, Hamilton 7, C. Pearson 2. FG — 24-51 (.471). FT — 3-11.
JV — Ocosta 49, Willapa Valley 29.