Willapa Valley came up just short of playing for a state title after a 56-53 loss to Wellpinit in the 1B State semifinals on Friday in Spokane.
The Vikings (20-6 overall) were slow out the gate to start the semifinal matchup against the top-seeded Redskins (25-1), falling behind 13-7 after one quarter.
Willapa Valley trailed 30-24 at the half and played catch-up most of the game against a fast Wellpinit squad.
Valley cut the deficit to two points with approximately 6:30 to go in the fourth quarter, but never took the lead as the Redskins pushed the advantage back up to six points before the Vikings were forced to foul.
Valley senior guard Riley Pearson hit a three just before the buzzer as time ran out on the Vikings’ hopes for a berth in the state-title game.
“We just ran out of time,” Willapa Valley head coach Jay Pearson said. “I was hoping this was one of those games where you trail the whole time then come back in the end and win it, but they’re too good a team to do that.”
The Vikings were led by two of their standout seniors in Pearson and Kolten Fluke.
Pearson scored a game-high 21 points – including going 7 of 8 from the free-throw line – hitting big shots in the second half to help give Valley a chance.
Fluke scored 17 points – 10 in the first half – to go along with six rebounds and four assists.
Valley seniors Wil Clements (6 points, 6 rebounds) and Derek Fluke (6 points, 6 rebounds) also played key minutes for the Vikings.
Clements held Redskins talent Smokey Abrahamson to to four points while Kolten Fluke held Skins point guard Jeffrey Moyer III to four points, but Wellpinit’s depth proved to be a critical factor in the game.
The Redskins got 36 points from their bench in the victory, led by guard Andrew Moyer (17 points) and Eli Leyva (9 points).
They had some guys step up big time in a big game and we made more mistakes and they won it,” Coach Pearson said. “Hats off.”
Valley shot 39.5% from the floor on 19-of-38 shooting and hit 12 of 14 free throws (85.7%).
The Vikings outrebounded the Redskins 36-27, but committed 12 turnovers to just four for Wellpinit.
“They just had too many weapons. Their speed and shooting hurt us,” Coach Pearson said. “Their speed took us out of our set, put us a little more sideways instead of a downhill attack and their shooting, you couldn’t leave a guy. They hit big threes.”
The Redskins went 17 of 47 from the field (36.1%), including 7 of 19 from beyond the arc (36.8%) and scored 11 points off turnovers.
“Our kids battled and left it all on the court,” Coach Pearson said. “They did exactly what we asked. Sometimes you just get beat by a better team.”
With the loss, No. 4 Willapa Valley will take on No. 3 DeSales in the state’s third/fifth-place game at 1 p.m. Saturday.
Coach Pearson said he’d like a win on the final Saturday of the season for the first time in his 26 year coaching career.
“Out of all those years, we’ve never won on the last day,” he said. “So a goal for this season was, wherever we are, let’s win on the last day and that is still attainable. Hopefully, we have enough energy to do that because those kids left it on the floor.”
Willapa Valley 7 17 15 14 – 53
Wellpinit 13 17 13 13 – 56
Scoring: Willapa Valley – Pearson 21, K. Fluke 17, Clements 6, D. Fluke 6, Keeton 3. Wellpinit – Moyer 17, Wynecoop III 10, Leyva 9, Wynne 7, Abrahamson 4, Moyer III 4, Montgomery 3, Denison 2.