Valley Catholic just can't get over the top in its Saturday loss at state
by: Miles Vance DRIVING — Valley Catholic’s Andy Gram (here against Horizon Christian) led his team in rebounds at state.

COOS BAY - It was just one of those days for the Valley Catholic boys basketball team.

Facing PacWest Confer-ence runner-up Santiam Christian in the fourth/sixth-place game at the Class 3A state tournament at Marshfield High School on Saturday, the Valiants just couldn't quite get over the top.

Valley Catholic led 5-4 late in the first quarter against the Eagles, but never again after that. Santiam Christian built leads as large as 10 points twice in the game, and were still ahead by nine with 6 minutes, 44 seconds left to play. But the Valiants rallied in the remaining moments, using a 12-4 run to close within a single point in the final two minutes before the Eagles finally pulled away at the foul line to win 51-46.

Despite the loss - which ended the Lewis and Clark League champion Valiants' season at 24-6 - Valley Catholic left with the tournament's sixth-place trophy, only the second boys' state trophy in school history.

'We went down there with every single intention of winning the whole thing. We really believed we'd beat Horizon Christian (in the quarterfinals),' said Valley Catholic coach Jeff Gallagher. 'But after that, it had to be 'Let's get a trophy.''

For Valley's players, the chance to challenge themselves one more time against the state's best made Saturday's game well worth playing, even though they ended up on the short end of the score.

'It … shows a lot of character,' said Valley Catholic senior guard Cesar Catibayan, who had five points, four assists, two rebounds and a steal before fouling out in the fourth quarter. We knew it would 'show what kind of team we are.'

I knew 'we were still going to get that trophy,' added VC sophomore guard Christian McDonald, who led his team with 17 points against Santiam Christian. We knew it would show 'what kind of team we are.'

The Valiants' last lead in the game came in the final minute of the first quarter when Justin Dale hit from the field to make it 5-4, but that doesn't mean the Valiants weren't competitive the rest of the way.

Santiam Christian got a three-pointer from Aaron Boshart late in the first quarter to lead 7-5, then got two more Boshart 'threes' early in the second to boost its edge to 15-5 with 6:22 remaining before the half.

But Valley Catholic came back within 17-13 thanks to two Liam Cassidy three-pointers, another 'three' from Catibayan, and a McDonald hoop midway through the period.

The Eagles still led 27-20 at the break, then tacked on two Tyler Ropp hoops in the first 1:34 of the third quarter to extend their edge back to 31-21 with 5:26 left in the period.

The Valiants rallied again, though, and put together a 9-2 run that cut their deficit to 33-30 when McDonald took a Cassidy pass and buried a three-pointer with 3:13 to go in the quarter.

Santiam Christian pushed its lead back to 39-32 entering the fourth quarter, and then to 43-34 when Ropp scored with 6:44 left in the contest. Still, the Valiants - who played the final 4:47 without Catibayan after he fouled out - weren't done yet.

Following Ropp's hoop, Gram connected twice, Catibayan hit once, and McDonald and Cassidy both drilled 'threes,' with Cassidy's bomb cutting Santiam Christian's lead to 47-46 with 1:40 to go.

But VC wouldn't score again, while the Eagles got two foul shots each from Boshart and Jeffrey Hendrix in the final 40 seconds to seal their victory.

As painful as the Valiants' finish was, it did little to dampen Gallagher's enthusiasm for his team and their stellar 2010-11 season.

'I love these guys, their parents - everything about them,' Gallagher said. 'This has been one of the funnest, most coachable groups of kids I've ever had. I liked these guys more than any group I've had in my nine years here.'

Gram finished with 11 points, seven rebounds and three assists, and Cassidy had nine points and three assists. Boshart led the Eagles with 15 points and five rebounds, while Hendrix and Ropp added 10 each.

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