The Willapa Valley Vikings will make their second consecutive appearance in the 1B District 4 championship boys basketball game after defeating Mossyrock 56-39 in a semifinal game Thursday, Feb. 18, in Menlo.
Eighth-ranked Willapa Valley (18-4 overall) got off to a hot start in the opening quarter despite not playing a game in 14 days.
After Mossyrock (11-10) opened the game with a Zackary Munoz 3-pointer, Willapa Valley simply couldn’t miss from long range, embarking on a 10-0 run highlighted by back-to-back threes from senior guard Gavin Hampton and junior guard Kolten Fluke.
Willapa Valley hit its third straight 3-point attempt on a shot by Riley Pearson to open up a 13-6 lead midway through the period, but Mossyrock climbed back to within a bucket when Munoz hit his third three of the quarter to cut the deficit to 15-13 with 2:25 left.
A Tyler Adkins bucket in the low post followed by a Hampton pull-up jumper in the final minute put Willapa Valley up 19-13 at the end of the quarter.
Willapa Valley took a double-digit lead at 27-17 on a Hampton drive and layup with 5:45 left in the first half, but Willapa Valley would go ice cold over the next four minutes, not scoring another point until Adkins converted a drive to the basket with 1:52 on the clock.
But behind a defense that rotated to challenge every shot and rebounded well, Willapa Valley kept Mossyrock at a distance as Adkins’ bucket gave Willapa Valley a 29-21 lead.
A Hampton layup off a perfect Derek Fluke bounce pass to close out the second quarter gave Willapa Valley a 31-21 lead at the half.
“I think what happened was we came out extremely hot in the first half and were hitting every shot,” said Willapa Valley head coach Jay Pearson, who offered his thoughts on his team cooling off in the second quarter. “A habit of our team is we get complacent and settle for jumpers and quit attacking the basket.”
That trend continued for Willapa Valley in the third quarter, as the Vikings managed just 13 points in the frame.
But Mossyrock had no consistent answers for Willapa Valley’s defense and was unable to cut into Willapa Valley’s lead with any significance. Mossyrock got as close as 37-30 on a Keegan Colb 3-pointer at the 4:15 mark of the third period.
Willapa Valley got to the free-throw line in the third quarter, but missed an opportunity to put the game out of reach by making just 5-of-10 in the period after going 0-for-6 in the second.
But once again it was Willapa Valley that closed out the quarter strong, outscoring Mossyrock 7-3 over the final half of the third quarter to take a 44-33 lead into the final period.
Making a more concerted effort to attack the basket, Willapa Valley continued to get to the free-throw line in the fourth quarter, and they began to fall as the Vikings converted on 8-of-10 foul shots in the frame to secure the 56-39 win.
“For two quarters there we quit playing our game,” Coach Pearson said. “We never dribble it up the middle and for some reason we were doing it and we were trying to score in that second and third quarter with just one or two passes and that’s not who we are. We’re a team that has to move the ball and attack the basket. If we make our lay-ins and free throws, we win that game by 30.”
Willapa Valley went 18-for-28 (54 percent) from the foul line and 18-for-52 (35 percent) from the field in the game.
Adkins scored 19 points to lead Willapa Valley followed by Hampton (11 points), Kolten Fluke (9 points) and Derek Fluke (8 points, 12 rebounds).
Munoz led Mossyrock with 19 points, while Kolb added 12 points. Just five players scored for Mossyrock, with no other player scoring more than seven points in the contest.
His team’s defensive performance was a point of pride for Coach Pearson.
“That’s what kind of turns it around for us if we’re not playing well. Defense wins games,” he said. “Defense, rebound and get out and run has been our keys to success. … Holding a high school team to 39 points in a game, less than (an average) 10 points per quarter, that’s pretty damn good.”
With the victory, Willapa Valley returns to the 1B District 4 title game for the second straight season.
The Vikings will face Naselle — which defeated Oakville 64-58 in a district semifinal on Thursday — in a rematch of last season’s district championship matchup, a game in which Willapa Valley lost 66-51.
“It means a lot,” Coach Pearson said of reaching the district final, noting Willapa Valley is in the midst of a 20 year district-championship drought.
The title game will also be a bit of a family affair for Pearson, whose oldest son is married to the daughter of Naselle head coach Bill Olsen.
“That adds a little bit too it and with Naselle and Valley, you add all that tradition, it just adds a little more to it,” Pearson said.
While pondering which school’s gear his grandson will represent at the game, Pearson joked future employment may be on the line.
“If he wants a job fishing in Alaska, it better be Valley.”
Montesano Powerlifters win White River meet
The Montesano Powerlifters won its opening meet of the season at White River High School in Buckley on Jan. 8.
Montesano finished with a team total of 59 points, to place first ahead of host White River (39) and third-place Snohomish (12 points).
Five Montesano athletes placed first in their respective weight classes.
Peyton Damasiewicz (165 pounds), Ethan Blundered (181 pounds), Jayden McElravy (198 pounds), Logan Roberts (220 pounds) and Rylee Chapman (242 pounds) all placed first in their respective weight classes to lead Monte to the victory.
Montesano’s results are as follows:
132 pounds — 2, Tucker Eaton. 3, Thomas Flink.
165 pounds — 1, Peyton Damasiewicz, 850 total pounds.
181 pounds — 1, Ethan Blundered, 1055.
198 pounds — 1, Jayden McElravy. 935. 2, John Southard. 4, Gabe Bodwell. 5, Will Wahlstrom.
220 pounds — 1, Logan Roberts, 1005. 2, Camden Taylor.