LONGVIEW – It had been 36 years since Montesano’s boys had qualified for state. This year’s team thought Feb. 23 was the perfect time for that drought to end.
L.J. Valley scored 24 points as the Bulldogs earned a state berth with a 61-48 victory over La Center in a Class 1A regional boys basketball game Friday at Mark Morris High School.
The Bulldogs (20-5) advanced to the state tournament beginning Wednesday at Yakima. They will face the loser of today’s Zillah-Northwest School regional contest in the opening game of state, at 9 a.m. It will be Monte’s first state appearance in boys basketball since 1982.
“I’m totally elated for these kids and the town,” Monte coach Doug Galloway said. “It’s been 36 years since Montesano boys basketball had been to state and that ended tonight.”
Trevor Ridgway scored 14 points and Sam Winter 10 for the Bulldogs.
Monte held La Center scoreless for half of the first quarter in bolting to a 9-0 lead before Avery Seter hit a 3-pointer to open up the scoring for the Wildcats.
La Ceneter’s first-quarter run was fueled by some strong perimeter shooting that drew the game even at 15 by the end of the first quarter.
Galloway said he told his team to be prepared for La Center’s perimeter ball movement and 3-point shooting.
“We knew they could shoot and we knew they could drive,” he said. “We tried to take the drive away but they’re going to hit some shots. They can shoot, they’re a very good team and they have 12 wins in a row.”
Some timely 3-point shooting from Ridgway, along with some impressive finishes at the rim from Winter and Valley helped Monte reclaim the lead at halftime, 34-30.
Valley continued to be a force in the third quarter, draining a few threes of his own to the Bulldogs a double-digit lead and some breathing room.
Galloway said his team performed at a high level despite facing a defense that makes it difficult to find the open man.
“They try to keep you on a side and I thought our kids did a really good job of being patient and spreading the floor,” he said. “They took some good shots. In the past we’ve had some trouble reversing the ball but the kids did a fantastic job.”
The Bulldogs limited the Wildcats (16-8) to five points in the fourth quarter and pulled away from the foul line. They wound up hitting 15 of 20 free throws.
Galloway and his team made an early visit to Yakima on Tuesday. That’s where the Zillah-Northwest Regional is scheduled.
La Center 15 15 13 5 — 48
Montesano 15 19 13 14 — 61
La Center (48) — Shaw, Keep 9, Obot, Norris 6, Seter 17, Bryant 3, Ecklund 13, Weaver, Siebert, Hiller. FG — 17-52 (.327). FT — 4-9.
Montesano (61) — Bates 4, Ridgway 14, Nicklas 2, Winter 10, Albert, Valley 24, Farmer 2, Dierkop 5. FG — 20-55 (.364). FT— 15-20.