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VC wraps up trophy with win

The Valiants beat Harrisburg 41-33 in their consolation semifinal at Marshfield High
by: Miles Vance AT STATE — Valley Catholic sophomore Bruce Jones (here against Horizon Christian) and the Valiants stepped up to beat Harrisburg 41-33 in the consolation semifinals of the Class 3A state tournament on Friday.

COOS BAY - Every day of the Class 3A state tournament brought new challenges for the Valley Catholic boys basketball team.

On Friday, the test came in bouncing back from a quarterfinal loss to eventual state champion Horizon Christian, and the Valiants did just that, using a big third-quarter edge to dump the Eagles 41-33 in the consolation semifinals at Marshfield High School and guarantee themselves a tournament trophy.

The win lifted the Lewis and Clark League champion Valiants' record to 24-5, while Harrisburg - the third-place finisher from the PacWest Conference - ended its year at 22-7.

We knew we'd 'bounce back. We've got a ton of character,' said Valley Catholic senior guard Andy Gram, who had 15 points, eight rebounds and two steals in the win. 'We've got a ton of passion for the game.'

'That was a big win,' added Valley Catholic coach Jeff Gallagher. 'Especially for me, because the selfish thing was, I wanted to coach these guys all three games at state.'

The Eagles, who dropped their opener 41-24 to Blanchet Catholic on March 3, raced out to a 6-2 lead at the start of the first quarter as Valley Catholic hit just one of its first five shots and turned the ball over twice.

But VC cut that gap to 6-4 at the end of the frame on two Christian McDonald free throws in the final minute, then took its first lead at 10-9 when Gram connected on three straight shots to open the second period. The third of those three shots came off a Cesar Catibayan assist and pushed the Valiants ahead 10-9 with 6:23 to go before the half.

Harrisburg responded with a 6-0 run built on three-pointers by Elty McMillan and Trent Ruckert, then added a Nathan Theisfeld foul shot late in the half to take a 16-15 lead into the break.

The Valiants pushed ahead in the third quarter, but still led just 28-26 after Harrisburg's Stuart Shoemaker scored with 2:02 remaining. In the final 1:42 of the period, however, McDonald scored on back-to-back possessions, the second of those a three-pointer set up by Catibayan's steal that extended VC's lead to 33-26 with 1:05 to go in the period.

Both teams struggled with their shooting early in the fourth quarter, but the Eagles still trailed just 33-30 when McMillan hit with 3:12 left in the game.

From there, though, the Valiants answered with a 6-0 run that put the game on ice, first getting a basket from Bruce Jones, then adding three foul shots by McDonald and one from Catibayan to lead 39-30 with 1:03 remaining. Catibayan added two more foul shots in the final minute for his team's final points.

'Our bench play was very, very good,' Gallagher said. 'When we switched to our man-to-man press, Jake Olsen came in and switched the entire momentum of the game with his on-ball defense. Harrisburg was very patient, but once we switched to our man press, we were good.'

In addition to Gram's 15, McDonald led VC with 17 points after hitting 5-of-11 shots from the floor (including two 'threes') and 5-of-6 foul shots. Catibayan scored just five points, but handed out three assists and also made four steals.

McMillan led Harrisburg with eight points, three rebounds, and three assists, while Ruckert and Shane Baker added six each for the Eagles.