Willapa Valley returned to Menlo with a fifth-place state trophy after losing to DeSales 64-52 in the 1B State Tournament third/fifth-place game on Saturday at the Spokane Arena.
Playing its third game in as many days, Valley (20-7 overall) got off to a slow start and trailed 24-7 after the first quarter and by 13 at halftime.
“First half we were stiff and kind of slow,” Willapa Valley head coach Jay Pearson said. “(DeSales) scored 42 points and we never give up 42 points (in a half). But our kids battled through foul trouble and played through it.”
Led by senior Kolten Fluke and a renewed energy, the Vikings climbed back into the game to trim the Irish lead to a little as six points several times in the second half.
But Valley couldn’t close the gap down the stretch in suffering a loss in the season finale.
“It was kind of sad. A goal this year was to win on the last day and we didn’t,” Pearson said. “I don’t fault the kids, they somehow dug down deep and kicked it to the next gear to get us back in the game. They left it all on the floor.”
Fluke scored 15 points on 7-of-14 shooting (50%) to lead Valley once again in state-tournament play.
“Kolten Fluke had one heck of a tournament,” Pearson said. “He willed himself to keep us in the game.”
Senior forward Wil Clements wrapped up his prep career with 11 points while fellow senior Derek Fluke added six points, a team-high nine rebounds and three assists for the Vikings.
Willapa Valley shot 38% from the field on 19-of-50 shooting, including 4 of 16 from the 3-point line (25%) and 10 of 14 from the foul line (71.4%).
Foul trouble was an issue for Valley and played a key part in the outcome of the game. The Vikings were called for 25 personal fouls, with Derek Fluke and senior guard Riley Pearson (8 points) both fouling out and Kolten Fluke, Clements and Nathan Fluke each hampered with four fouls apiece.
Third-seeded DeSales (24-3) got to the free-throw line 28 times on the back of Vikings fouls, converting 20 (71.4%), including 13 for 26 in the first half (50%).
DeSales was led by guard Jack Lesko, who had 23 points and went 15 of 17 from the charity stripe (88.2%) to lead all scorers.
Coach Pearson said he was impressed with the level of intensity his team played with throughout the tournament.
“I don’t know where these kids got this energy,” he said. “Like I told them, you leave it all on the floor, you’re a winner no matter what the scoreboard says. I’m so proud of how hard they played. … Of all the teams I’ve coached, they’ll be the team I talk about because it was a true team that got along so well and they’ve been together so much that it’s sad to see them go.”
Valley loses seniors Clements, Riley Pearson, Kolten Fluke, Derek Fluke, Garrett Keeton and Trey Ritzman off a group that while they may have not possessed a high-degree of raw basketball talent, their unselfish, team-first approach is what earned them a state trophy, according to Coach Pearson.
“They didn’t have the talent but made up for it with the effort, work ethic and team play,” he said. “You knew that whatever happened there was one consistent: They were going to give it everything they had and they were going to battle. … It was a great group of kids and the most complete team I’ve had. Proud of them and they are going to be very successful in life.”
Willapa Valley 16 13 11 12 – 52
DeSales 24 18 9 13 – 64
Scoring: Willapa Valley – K. Fluke 15, Clements 11, Pearson 8, D. Fluke 6, N. Fluke 5, Keeton 4, Ritzman 3. DeSales – Lesko 23, C. Green 15, S. Green 13, Baffney 7, Sisk 2, Holtzinger 2, Balof 2.