Colvilleâ€™s Matt Hubbard wrestles for 50/50 ball during first half. Photo courtesy of Andy Sawyer, Yakima Herald-Republic.
Second half rally comes
Colville High saw its opportunity to make the State Hardwood Classic â€śFinal 8â€ť field this week in Yakima blown apart by an ugly start in last Friday nightâ€™s â€śSweet 16â€ť regional match-up against third-ranked Naches Valley at Yakimaâ€™s East Valley High School.
The upstart Indians, who had gained the regional after eliminating Northeast A League regular season champion Freeman one week earlier at the Bi-District Tournament in Chelan, couldnâ€™t hit the side of the East Valley gym with a shot in the first half, falling behind 19-2 in the first quarter and ultimately losing 49-35 to the Rangers (22-2).
The Indians (15-12) were flat out of the gate in this one and seemingly couldnâ€™t do anything right. By contrast, Naches Valley, despite losing starting guard Dalton Huck to a badly sprained ankle early in the first quarter, was playing on all cylinders.
NV scores gameâ€™s first 14 points
The Rangers scored the gameâ€™s first 14 points before Colville junior guard Jay Shoemaker broke a frigid start with a lay-in at the 1:10 mark of the first quarter.
With SCAC West MVP guard Derek Huck and sharp-shooting Cameron Walker taking turns tearing up the Colville zone, NV raced to a 19-2 lead in the first quarter.
Colville missed its first eight shots and couldnâ€™t get anything going.
Colvilleâ€™s 6-9 post, Matt Hubbard, under the weather all week long, buried a three-pointer to cut the Rangersâ€™ lead to 23-6 late in the second quarter. That was pretty much the first half â€śhighlightâ€ť for the Indians, who trailed 32-6 at the half.
Veteran CHS head coach John Foulkes, who has seen a lot in his career, had never seen anything quite like his teamâ€™s first half against NV.
â€śWe have had shooting issues all season long,â€ť Foulkes said in post-mortem. â€śIn our last three games, against quality state competition, there have been problems.â€ť
Colville was two of 21 from the field in the first half for a pretty much unheard of nine percent shooting. By the same token, Naches Valley was 14 of 27 in the first half.
â€śItâ€™s all about shooting,â€ť Foulkes said. â€śThey were getting the shots they wanted and were hitting a high percentage of them. â€śAnd then our mental approach to start with wasnâ€™t good.
â€śWe made a good team look even better.â€ť
But thatâ€™s why they play two halves--this one was a tale of two halves.
As bad as Colville was in the first half, they were scintillating at times in the second half. The Indians were able to trim that 26-point deficit down to eight points at one juncture in the fourth quarter. At one point, Foulkes figured one of the most monumental of comebacks might be completed.
Colville outscored NV 21-5 in the third quarter.
But Naches Valley, clearly rattled by Colvilleâ€™s second half resurgence, did just enough late in the fourth quarter to hold off the Indians.
Huck was the difference-maker late in the game. The 6-1 guard led the way with 16 points and scored six points in the gameâ€™s final 3:49 to get the Rangers to State.
Walker added 10 more and 6-5, 260-pound Jeremy Gaudette added eight points, nine rebounds, three blocked shots, a pair of steals and five assists.
Hubbard, who didnâ€™t practice most of the week because of sickness, scored 11 of his team-high 15 points in the third quarter.
NV coach Jon Eldridge could only shake his head at Colvilleâ€™s relentless comeback in the second half. Like Foulkesâ€™, itâ€™s a fair assessment that Eldridge hadnâ€™t seen anything quite like the tale of those two halves at East Valley.
â€śI think we took a nap at halftime and didnâ€™t wake up,â€ť Eldridge quipped.
NV might have been sleep walking through the second half, but the Indians never quit and had a lot to do with the Rangersâ€™ lethargy.
â€śWe challenged them at halftimeâ€¦told them that they owed it to themselves, to their community and to their school to be better than what they had shown in that first half,â€ť Foulkes said of the dialogue at halftime. â€śI asked them if that was what they wanted to be remembered for by their community?
â€śThey didnâ€™t want to go out like that and they didnâ€™t.
â€śThey were pretty fired up and did a great job of battling and getting back into the game. Naches Valley didnâ€™t know what hit them in the second half.â€ť
Yes, itâ€™s tough when you outscore an opponent 21-5 in a quarter and still find yourself down by 10 points.
Colville, behind Hubbard and 6-6 energy bunny, JR Henry (11 pointsâ€”all in the second half), climbed back into it and had the deficit trimmed to eight on a couple of occasions in the fourth quarter before NVâ€™s defense came up with some stops and the Indians missed some key shots down the stretch.
Lee contributes solid minutes off the bench
Reserve post Erik Lee came up big for Colville off the bench. Lee trimmed the Naches Valley lead to 37-29 midway through the fourth quarter on a put-back.
Henryâ€™s two free throws at the 3:59 mark of the fourth quarter trimmed the Rangers lead to 41-33, but thatâ€™s as close as Colville would get.
Huck hit a pair of free throws moments later and Colville was called for a shot clock violation.
In no hurry to rush anything, and hanging on for dear life, NV had just enough with Huck to finish it.
â€śHuck was the difference at the end,â€ť Foulkes said of the NV star. â€śHe didnâ€™t have that first step of some of the kids weâ€™ve seen this season. We were able to stay in front of him. But heâ€™s a good player and he kind of put them on his back in the fourth quarter.â€ť
Foulkes, who said he has never seen a half as bad as what his club put together in the first half, or a second half like the Indians put together, was proud of his kids.
â€śI was very proud of the kids,â€ť Foulkes said. â€śWe had only one or two defensive lapses (in the second half). Huck made some tough shots late in the fourth quarter. Hats off to the kid. He put them on his back.
â€śTo get back in that gameâ€¦after the way we startedâ€¦the effort was phenomenal in the second half. Credit to the kidsâ€¦they just dug deep, stuck together and competedâ€¦you never know where a teamâ€™s pulse isâ€¦the kids didnâ€™t expect to execute the way they did in that first halfâ€¦but there was great effort and passion in that second half.â€ť
The CHS swan song was a tough one for four-year varsity player and three-year starter Alex Pond. The 6-5 Pond didnâ€™t score.
â€śAlex just couldnâ€™t get anything goingâ€¦it sure wasnâ€™t for lack of effort,â€ť Foulkes said. â€śBut he contributed a lot to this program for four years. He is going to be missed.â€ť
Henry, the transfer from Arizona, is also going to be missed to. The big redhead always brought great energy and had a significant impact on the program in just one season at CHS.
â€śHe was really an unstoppable force with his energy in the third quarter when we got back into it,â€ť Foulkes said. â€śHe had a tremendous finishâ€¦just a great worker on and off the court all season. His improvement this season was remarkable.â€ť
He also appreciated the effort of Hubbard in the second half and the contribution off the bench from the 6-5 Lee.
â€śErik had a great game,â€ť Foulkes said of his senior. â€śHe played with great energy and passion.â€ť
Colville shot 35 percent from the field in the second half and 23 percent for the game.
NV out-boarded Colville 23-12 in the first half and finished with a 34-30 advantage.
The Indians committed a season-low 10 turnovers.
Foulkes is going to miss his six seniorsâ€”Pond, Henry, Lee, guard Taylor Murto, Garth Vaagen and Sam Sprague.
Foulkes will remember this group as the first CHS boyâ€™s basketball team to qualify for State since 1997.
â€śThatâ€™s a big deal and they should be proud of that,â€ť he said, adding that â€śthese kids matured a lot during the season.â€ť
Naches Vly 49, Colville 35
CHS 2 4 21 8â€”35
NV 19 13 5 12â€”49
Colvilleâ€”Henry 12, Lee 4, Shoemaker 4, Hubbard 15.
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Naches Valleyâ€”Huck 16, Gaudette 8, Walker 10, Pierson 8, Callahan 4, Cullier 2, St. Martin 1.