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Valiant slow-down falls just short in 30-28 loss

But short-handed Valley Catholic pushes No. 6 Amity to the limit in West Valley play
by: MILES VANCE, CHALLENGING — Valley Catholic junior Kent Kassel launches a shot attempt over Amity’s Steven Wolfe during his team’s Friday home loss.

BEAVERTON - Life support.

That's where Valley Catholic's boys basketball season is right now, but the Valiants definitely haven't given up.

The sixth-ranked Amity Warriors would probably agree after being pushed to the limit on Friday at Valley Catholic High School before finally escaping the Valiants' slow-down game plan with a 30-28 victory. The win lifted Amity's West Valley League record to 8-3 (15-4 overall) while the Valiants fell to 4-7 (9-11 overall).

With five league games remaining, Valley Catholic needs to move up to at least fifth place in the WVL standings to win a berth in the league playoffs and have a shot at defending the Class 3A state title the team won in 2007.

'Every one from now on is a must-win for us,' said Valley Catholic junior guard Kent Kassel, who finished with eight points including two three-pointers in the fourth quarter. 'We have to win on Monday for sure. There's two teams we should beat and then we have to create a couple upsets for ourselves.'

'The next game's a must win, and in my career at Valley Catholic, I've never lost a must-win game,' added junior guard Michael Lyon, who had five points and rimmed out what would have been a game-winning three-pointer with 15 seconds to go. 'We don't care about winning pretty anymore.'

The Valiants, still playing without injured 6-foot-6 junior post Chris Kiefer, opened Friday's game at a snail's pace and kept it there throughout most of the first half. With Valley Catholic working its half-court offense to the extreme, the two teams managed just seven shots in the opening quarter and finished with Amity leading 2-0.

The Valiants turned it on, relatively speaking in the second quarter, hit 4-of-6 shots from the floor and grabbed a 9-6 halftime edge. Junior Jackson Gambee hit two of those shots, one of them a 'three,' while Amity went just 2-of-8 and turned the ball over three times.

'We're getting better at that offense. It's much harder to run than it looks,' Lyon said. 'It's the same thing over and over and you've got to be real strong with the ball.'

The two teams were tied at 19-19 entering the of fourth quarter thanks to two more Gambee hoops, and were still even at 25-25 after Kassel hit his second three-pointer of the final period, this one from the left corner on a Gambee assist with 2:05 left in the game.

But Amity pulled away at the foul line down the stretch, with Ryan McMullen and Bobby Hatch hitting twice each and Daniel Huber one in the final 1:36. The Valiants, meanwhile, got a Lyon three-pointer from the top of the key with 21 seconds left that cut the Warriors' lead to 30-28, and thanks to an Amity foul on the play, a chance at a four-point play.

Lyon missed the ensuing free throw but rebounded his own miss and launched a game-winner three-point attempt from the top of the key with 15 seconds remaining. But Lyon's shot wouldn't stay down, Steven Wolfe rebounded for Amity and rebounded for Amity and the Warriors escaped with the win.

'We did everything we could. We had a chance to win the game with a last-second shot and that's all our coaches wanted for us,' Kassel said. 'That's the sixth-rated team in the state and we're not even in the top 10 and I think we played them very well.'

'In the fourth quarter, … we made a couple tough shots, but one or two more tough shots and we would have won that game,' Lyon added. 'I don't think we'll lose again the rest of the season. We're no longer afraid to get grimy. We're no longer afraid to play hard and get dirty and do what we need to do to win.'

In upcoming games, Valley Catholic hosts Willamina at 6 p.m. today (Thursday) at Westside Christian at 6 p.m. Monday and hosts Dayton at 6 p.m. Wednesday.