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Two-time champ Dayton too much in VC state finale

The Valiants shoot just 27 percent from the field in the loss


by: MILES VANCE - AT STATE - Valley Catholic's Gabe Taylor attacks the basket during his team's loss to Dayton in the third/fifth-place game on Saturday in the Class 3A state tournament at Marshfield High School.

COOS BAY — Valley Catholic’s boys basketball team knew it.

The Dayton Pirates knew it.

And just about everybody inside Marshfield High School on Saturday knew it too — you’ve got to make shots to win, and for the second day in a row, the Valiants just didn’t make enough of them. The result? Second-ranked Valley Catholic dropped a 51-42 decision to Dayton and closed out the Class 3A state tournament with the fifth-place trophy. The loss ended VC’s season with a 23-5 record, while the West Valley League co-champion Pirates finished at 21-7.

Despite losing their final two games at state, the Lewis & Clark League champion Valiants left proud of their efforts, thrilled with the experience and determined to come back even better next year.

“I love this group of guys. This is the most fun I’ve ever had playing ball,” said Liam Cassidy, Valley Catholic’s lone senior starter this year. “The end of the season wasn’t exactly what we wanted, but we still had a great year.”

“It was a great experience and we were really blessed with the seniors we had,” said Valiant junior Gabe Taylor, who won first-team all-tournament honors. “They were true leaders and they made a path for the others to follow for years to come.”

“We were lucky to have the seniors we had,” added junior Jarrett Gray, a second-team all-tournament selection. “I’m just going to remember the season. We had a great season.”

VC coach Joel Sobotka, in his first year at the Valiants’ helm after leaving his previous job as a men’s assistant coach at University of Portland, echoed his players’ sentiments.

“Before we got here, I thought we were playing our best basketball of the year on both ends. We were clicking,” said Sobotka, also Valley Catholic’s athletic director. “It’s a shame that we didn’t finish the way we wanted, but I think the experience was tremendous for everyone.”

There were some good moments in the finale against Dayton, too. After falling behind 9-0 at the start of the game on three-pointers from Justin Sutton and Nathan Bernards, Valley Catholic put together one of its best stretches. Over a span of 6:44 in the first and second quarters, the Valiants outscored the Pirates 14-8 to close within 17-14 midway through the second period.

Taylor got things started with a putback of his own miss, Kazuma Lane took a Gray pass and connected inside, and Taylor hit three of four free throws to close within 17-7 at the end of the first.

The Valiants then added a 7-0 run at the start of the second period, getting a pull-up jumper from Gray, a Cassidy “three” from the top of the key, and two more Taylor foul shots to edge within 17-14 with 4:34 remaining in the opening half.

Valley Catholic was still down just 23-19 after Taylor hit one foul shot with 3:33 to go in the third quarter, but things started to go south from there. In the final 11 minutes of the contest, Valley Catholic hit just 6-of-20 shots from the floor, while the Pirates knocked down seven of their final eight shots in the third quarter and their first two in the fourth to pull away.

Forrest Garcia did most of the damage in the third, hitting three times (including a three-pointer) in the final 4:32, while Bernards added a “three” of his own and Zach Spink a last-second putback to send the Pirates into the fourth quarter with a 37-24 lead.

VC tried to battle back with a Canaan Sellers foul shot, a Taylor three-pointer, two free throws by Gray, and a Lane hoop in the key assisted by Cassidy that cut Dayton’s lead to 43-32 with 5:15 left in the contest. But the Pirates put the game away at the foul line, knocking down six of nine free throws in the final 3:20 to win.

For the game, Valley Catholic hit just 14-of-49 shots from the field (27 percent), including just 2-of-14 from three-point range. Dayton, meanwhile, hit 18-of-47 shots for a mark of 38 percent.

“All you can do is play hard and play defense, and if the shots aren’t falling, shots aren’t falling,” said Taylor, who led all scorers with 18 points and eight rebounds, but just 3-of-12 shooting from the field.

“We had our chances,” said Gray, who added six points on 2-of-9 shooting. “We had some shots we normally make, but they were doing a good job of moving the ball and scoring.”

“I’m most proud that we continued to compete and play hard and play together, but sometimes shots don’t go,” Sobotka added. “We had a lot of great looks. We had a lot of shots go in and out. We had free throws and good looks at ‘three.’ It’s definitely not how we play.”

That said, the Valiants who will return next year — all but Cassidy, Carlos Catibayan and Jordan Runstein — can’t wait to get back to state.

“We’ll be back. We’ll be back,” Taylor said. “And we’re going to get better.”

“With this group of guys, we’ll be getting after it next week, working for the offseason for next year because we’re hungry,” Gray added.

Sutton led Dayton with 16 points, Garcia added nine and Bernards seven.

To see a complete photo gallery from this game, please go to milesvance.exposuremanager.com.



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