CENTRALIA – With a spot in regionals on the line, Willapa Valley watched a valiant comeback slip by the wayside in the opening minutes of overtime.
Trailing by as many as 11 in the first half, Valley stormed back to take the lead late in the fourth quarter and force overtime before falling to Mossyrock, 58-54, in a Southwest Washington District IV 2B boys basketball game semifinal game at Ron Brown Court at Centralia High School.
Valley (19-4) will look to lock up a regional berth at 6:30 p.m. Friday at Rochester High School against Pacific League rival North Beach. The Vikings took two of three previous meetings this season.
After a hard-fought fourth quarter that saw three ties and three lead changes, Mossyrock rolled off the first eight points of overtime to give itself enough distance to withstand a final Valley charge. Three points from post player Shaun Stephens, followed by a conventional three-point play from Tristan Watson and an acrobatic drive from wing Jaron Kirkley put Mossyrock up 56-48 with 2:12 left in the extra frame.
Valley answered with six straight points, a free throw by point guard Cody Buchanan followed by a banked-in three pointer from Buchanan and a pair of Stephen Camenzind free throws narrowed the margin to 56-54 with 47.7 seconds left.
However, the ensuing critical possession went Mossyrock’s way. Working the ball around the perimeter, Kirkley ended up on the foul line with 18.4 seconds left and nailed a pair of free throws to give the winners the final margin.
“We’re disappointed we lost. I’m sick for our kids because they fought so hard. We really feel like we had them and let them off the hook,” Valley coach John Peterson said.
Six minutes into the game, it was hard for anyone to imagine Valley being in a position to let Mossyrock off the hook.
Mossyrock’s Vikings took advantage of Valley’s attempt to start the game in a man-to-man defense, hitting a trio of three-pointers en route to a 15-4 lead with 2:01 in the first quarter.
“Last year, we came out in a zone and they went up on us, 14-2,” Valley coach John Peterson said, referring to a district battle between the two teams last year that ended Valley’s season. “This year, I went backwards and they still heated up.”
Valley close the quarter with a 6-2 spurt, trimming the deficit to six after the first quarter. A see-saw second quarter gave Mossyrock a 31-23 halftime lead.
Valley came out of the half on a 7-0 run to bring the game to 31-30. Buchanan scored on a pretty backdoor feed from Valley post Camenzind, Kyler Oblad drained a three and putback an Anthony Sagen missed.
The Pacific County Vikings were on the verge of taking the lead a handful of times but couldn’t convert on a series of close shots.
“We want our kids to have the confidence to shoot, they do, and sometimes it just doesn’t fall,” Peterson said.
Valley finally found itself on top in the midway through the fourth quarter.
Trailing by three to start the fourth, Valley tied it up for the first time since 2-2 with a Matt Konigsberger three from the left wing.
Stephens rattled off baskets on back-to-back possessions to put Mossyrock back in front by four.
Valley answered with six straight points to finally take a two-point lead, 48-46. Driving buckets from Konigsberger and Anthony Sagen and a Sagen layin off a backdoor cut did the work.
Kyler Hazen’s off-balance runner with 2:00 left in the fourth quarter tied it up at 48-all.
Both teams had opportunities to take the lead in the waning minutes.
Hazen missed a ten-foot jumper with 15 seconds left in regulation, Camenzind grabbed the rebound but Valley was unable to get a clean look before the fourth quarter buzzer sounded.
Mossyrock’s Watson led all scorers with 20 points – 15 coming in the first half.
Balanced Valley was paced by 12 points apiece from Sagen, Buchanan and Camenzind. Konigsberger added 11 points. Camenzind hauled in 11 rebounds while Konigsberger pulled in 10.
Willapa Valley 11 12 16 9 6 — 54 Mossyrock 17 14 11 6 10 — 58
Willapa Valley (54) – Sagen 12, Buchanan 12, Konigsberger 11, Oblad 5, Pearson 2, Camenzind 12. FG – 21-63. FT – 7-9.
Mossyrock (58) — Stephens 15, Hazen 6, Kirkley 15, Watson 20, Allen, Butler 2. FG – 22-53. FT – 9-14.