Second half rally comes
Colville High saw its opportunity to make the State Hardwood Classic “Final 8” field this week in Yakima blown apart by an ugly start in last Friday night’s “Sweet 16” regional match-up against third-ranked Naches Valley at Yakima’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, couldn’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 couldn’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 game’s first 14 points
The Rangers scored the game’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 couldn’t get anything going.
Colville’s 6-9 post, Matt Hubbard, under the weather all week long, buried a three-pointer to cut the Rangers’ lead to 23-6 late in the second quarter. That was pretty much the first half “highlight” 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 team’s first half against NV.
“We have had shooting issues all season long,” Foulkes said in post-mortem. “In our last three games, against quality state competition, there have been problems.”
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.
“It’s all about shooting,” Foulkes said. “They were getting the shots they wanted and were hitting a high percentage of them. “And then our mental approach to start with wasn’t good.
“We made a good team look even better.”
But that’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 Colville’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 game’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 didn’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 Colville’s relentless comeback in the second half. Like Foulkes’, it’s a fair assessment that Eldridge hadn’t seen anything quite like the tale of those two halves at East Valley.
“I think we took a nap at halftime and didn’t wake up,” 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 Rangers’ lethargy.
“We challenged them at halftime…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,” Foulkes said of the dialogue at halftime. “I asked them if that was what they wanted to be remembered for by their community?
“They didn’t want to go out like that and they didn’t.
“They were pretty fired up and did a great job of battling and getting back into the game. Naches Valley didn’t know what hit them in the second half.”
Yes, it’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 points—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 NV’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.
Henry’s two free throws at the 3:59 mark of the fourth quarter trimmed the Rangers lead to 41-33, but that’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.
“Huck was the difference at the end,” Foulkes said of the NV star. “He didn’t have that first step of some of the kids we’ve seen this season. We were able to stay in front of him. But he’s a good player and he kind of put them on his back in the fourth quarter.”
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.
“I was very proud of the kids,” Foulkes said. “We 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.
“To get back in that game…after the way we started…the effort was phenomenal in the second half. Credit to the kids…they just dug deep, stuck together and competed…you never know where a team’s pulse is…the kids didn’t expect to execute the way they did in that first half…but there was great effort and passion in that second half.”
The CHS swan song was a tough one for four-year varsity player and three-year starter Alex Pond. The 6-5 Pond didn’t score.
“Alex just couldn’t get anything going…it sure wasn’t for lack of effort,” Foulkes said. “But he contributed a lot to this program for four years. He is going to be missed.”
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.
“He was really an unstoppable force with his energy in the third quarter when we got back into it,” Foulkes said. “He had a tremendous finish…just a great worker on and off the court all season. His improvement this season was remarkable.”
He also appreciated the effort of Hubbard in the second half and the contribution off the bench from the 6-5 Lee.
“Erik had a great game,” Foulkes said of his senior. “He played with great energy and passion.”
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 seniors—Pond, Henry, Lee, guard Taylor Murto, Garth Vaagen and Sam Sprague.
Foulkes will remember this group as the first CHS boy’s basketball team to qualify for State since 1997.
“That’s a big deal and they should be proud of that,” he said, adding that “these kids matured a lot during the season.”
Naches Vly 49, Colville 35
CHS 2 4 21 8—35
NV 19 13 5 12—49
Colville—Henry 12, Lee 4, Shoemaker 4, Hubbard 15.
Naches Valley—Huck 16, Gaudette 8, Walker 10, Pierson 8, Callahan 4, Cullier 2, St. Martin 1.