ROCHESTER – Willapa Valley rode an unlikely hot hand to a spot in regionals.
Coming off the bench, 5-foot-8 senior guard Anthony Sagen led all scorers with 17 points as Valley topped North Beach, 46-37 in a Southwest Washington District IV 2B boys basketball game Friday night at Rochester High School.
In addition to clinching its first post-district berth since 2010, the win gave Valley its 20th win of the season, the first time accomplishing that feat since 2006.
North Beach has one last chance to clinch a regional spot, today they’ll face off with Napavine at Chehalis High School at 2:30.
Valley plays a seeding game vs Onalaska at Centralia High School at the same time.
Viking coach John Peterson wasted no time crediting Sagen with the key performance in victory afterward.
“Anthony Sagen won the game for us. No other way to put. Our other kids played well, but man, he was great tonight,” Peterson noted.
Sagen’s most important work came in the opening minutes of the third quarter.
After a first half played to a 21-all draw, Sagen scored 7 of 12 consecutive Valley points in the first six minutes of the quarter as Valley opened up a 33-21 lead that would prove to be too much for the Hyaks to overcome.
North Beach trimmed the deficit to seven on two occasions in the fourth quarter – both after Levi Edlin rebound and putbacks, but was unable to get any closer down the stretch.
“Levi gave us great energy tonight, but we just struggled to get anything going on offense,” Hyak coach Larry Moore said.
The Hyaks shot just 27 percent from the floor and were just 3-of-11 from the free throw line.
The most startling statistic for the Hyaks may have been the combined 12 points from scoring stalwarts Gabe Hernandez and Corey Thornton.
With Cody Buchanan chasing Hernandez around the majority of the night and Matt Konigsberger guarding Thornton, the Vikings were able to have a hand in the face of a Hyak shooter on seemingly every shot.
“Those guys did a special job on Gabe and Corey tonight,” Peterson said. “We put a lot on this team this year. We scheduled tough to prepare them, and we set out a goal last spring to make it to regionals and now we’re there.”
Both teams unleashed tough defenses in the first half, making good looks at the basket tough to come by.
The Hyaks employed a 2-3 zone, designed to prevent the ball from getting inside to Stephen Camenzind. Valley struggled to make North Beach pay for the strategy early, falling in a 7-1 hole. However, three straight treys — two by Sagen and one by Buchanan — put the Vikings on top, 10-7, before Pedro Gonzales answered with his own three to tie it at 10-10 after the first quarter.
A tightly contested second quarter saw four ties and four lead changes. Sagen’s third three pointer and a Camenzind jumper gave Valley a 21-18 lead by Hayk point guard Michael Beck dialed up a 24-foot bomb to make it 21-all headed to halftime.
Camenzind led the Valley charge on the glass with 15 rebounds to go along with 10 points. Kongisberger added 12 points in the win.
Edlin – who came into game averaging three points – led the Hyaks with 12 points.
Peterson signed off by showering his longtime counterpart Moore with praise.
“It’s hard to to play your friends, especially with something on the line,” Peterson said. “Larry said before the game, at least we know one of us will be moving onto (regionals). I really hope they make it two tomorrow. I have a deep appreciation for Larry and the whole ‘upper beach’ community, they deserve to get back there as well.”
N. Beach1011511—37 Will. Valley1011169—46
North Beach (37) – Beck 3, Thornton 5, Gonzales 6, Ju. Chong 2, Takagi, Edlin 12, Hernandez 7, Perez 2. FG – 15-54 FT – 3-11.
Willapa Valley (46) – Sagen 17, Buchanan 5, Konigsberger 12, Oblad, Gray 2, Pearson, Camenzind 10, Graves. FG – 15-40. FT – 10-18.