One round in and the Willapa Valley Vikings are already making waves throughout the 1B section.
Behind one of its best defensive performances of the season in a critical do-or-die game, the Vikings dominated Moses Lake Christian/Convenant Christian to earn a shocking 42-25 victory in the 1B State Tournament Regional round on Friday at Easmont High Schoo in Wenatchee.
Willapa Valley (13-9 overall), which entered the state’s regional round and the lowest seed at No. 16, staved off elimination and earned a trip to the 1B State Tournament in Spokane by limiting the ninth-seeded Lady Lions to no more than seven points in any quarter of the game.
“They were so thrilled and I’m thrilled for them. … I’m so happy for them and a little bit shocked,” said Willapa Valley head coach John Peterson, whose team led wire-to-wire. “(MLCACC) is pretty good and they were big, but we jumped on them and they never recovered. We frustrated them like crazy.”
The key to Willapa Valley’s success was due in large part to a strategic move by Peterson that threw the Lady Lions (16-5) a wrinkle they weren’t ready for.
“We pressed tonight for the first time all year against a good team,” explained Peterson, who added his team’s press defense flustered MLCACC into 17 turnovers and led to his team recording 13 steals.
But while the toughness and defensive effort of the Vikings has not been in doubt this season, the big question mark for Willapa Valley entering the game was its offense, and would it get enough of it to keep its season alive?
That question was put to rest by senior all-leaguer Lanissa Amacher, who turned in an impressive performance on a big stage with 20 points and 10 rebounds for a double-double.
“She was absolutely brilliant,” Peterson said of his standout forward, who also had four steals to tie junior Brooklyn Patrick for the team lead.
Speaking of Patrick, the Vikings point guard also had a solid all-around floor game, scoring what Peterson said was “eight huge points” to to along with five assists and the aforementioned four steals.
Senior Chayse Coady scored six points and grabbed eight rebounds with Ana Chavez (5 points) and Hadlee Russell (3 pts.) also getting on the scoreboard for the Vikings.
With the win, Willapa Valley keeps its season alive for at least a few more games as the Vikings will face No. 8 Pomeroy in the first round of the WIAA 1B State Tournament at 9 p.m. Wednesday at the Spokane Arena.
For a team that entered the regionals as the lowest possible seed, a trip to the championship tournament is something of a storybook ending to the season.
“I’ve had some teams in the past that were Cinderella’s that we took to Spokane, but this is the farthest I’ve ever had a group of kids come,” said Peterson. “Nobody gave us a chance in the world. But they believed in themselves and believed what we were telling them. So we continue to dance. We get to go to Spokane.”
Though they may not be the most talented team in the section, Willapa Valley ranks high in several intangibles, including the determination and grit shown on Friday night.
“For as little as they are, these kids play,” he said. “We are tougher than a pine knot. These kids are so physically and mentally tough. They never quit on each other and they don’t care who scores, they just want to play.”
Willapa Valley 11 10 5 16 — 42
MLCACC 6 7 5 7 — 25
Willlapa Valley (42) — Amacher 20, Patrick 8, Coady 6, Chavez 5, Russell 3
MLCACC (25) — N/A