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Valiant boys punch ticket to tourney

Valley Catholic's 47-39 win over Grant Union sends the team into the 3A tournament
by: MILES VANCE, GOING UP — Valley Catholic senior point guard Trevor Gates goes up for two of his five points in the Valiants’ 47-39 win over Grant Union on Friday at Valley Catholic High School.

BEAVERTON - Goal No. 1? Check.

Goal No. 2? Check.

Goal No. 3? Valley Catholic's boys basketball team, which already won the West Valley League championship and earned a berth to state, started work on that goal yesterday (Wednesday) afternoon when it faced Santiam Christian in the opening round of the Class 3A state tournament at Willamette University.

But to get there, the Valiants had to win their first state playoff game in five years, taking out Grant Union 47-39 on Friday night at Valley Catholic High School. In the process, the third-ranked Valiants extended their school-record winning streak to 16 games, earned just the second state tournament berth in the boys program's 15-year history and improved their overall record to 21-6. Grant Union, the third-place finisher from the Eastern Oregon Conference, ended its season at 9-13.

'It's real exciting,' said Valiant senior Ben Johnson, who came up with a couple important defensive stops in the fourth quarter. 'This is the way we want to go out. It's a whole new experience so we have to deal with it.'

'It's our first state (tournament) game in five years. It'll be neat for them,' said Valley Catholic coach Jeff Gallagher said. 'The nice thing is we're still playing. We're going to go down and try to live it up and have a good time.'

It looked like Valley Catholic might put Grant Union away early Friday night, the Valiants using an 11-0 run in the last five minutes of the first quarter to lead 12-5, the capper Michael Hoffman's three-pointer from the top of the key on a Trevor Gates assist with 49 seconds left in the period.

But when Haugen went to the bench with two fouls early in the second quarter and sat out most of the period, the Prospectors battled back into contention. Grant Union outscored the Valiants 14-10 in the quarter behind Chance Ferguson's six points and actually led 19-18 on Tyler Roberts' jumpshot from the top of the key with 2:18 left in the half before settling for a 22-19 deficit at the break.

Grant Union hung tough through the third quarter, too, rallying from a nine-point deficit to within 32-30 on two Russ Moore free throws with 1:30 left in the quarter. Valley Catholic opened the half with 'threes' from Michael Lyon and Gates to push ahead 28-19, but gave back most of that edge and led just 34-30 entering the fourth quarter.

The Valiants' lead shrunk even further, too, to 36-34 when Ferguson drained a three-pointer from the right corner with 4:56 left in the game, but Valley Catholic took off from there. Grant Union scored on just one of its next six possessions while the Valiants got a putback from Haugen and then salted the game away at the foul line, hitting 7-of-8 free throws in a span of 1:01, that streak capped by two Haugen makes for a 47-36 edge with just 23 seconds remaining.

Valley Catholic was also buoyed by a Gates steal early in the quarter where the senior point guard knocked the ball loose near the Valiant bench, then threw the ball backward behind his back toward the basket where Haugen caught it and scored.

'At the huddle in between the third and fourth quarters, we realized it could go one way or another,' said Haugen, who led his team with 13 points on 4-of-7 shooting from the floor and 5-of-7 free throws. 'We knew which way we wanted to go because we've worked four long years.'

Chris Kiefer added seven points (five during a crucial first-half stint in relief of Haugen) and Lyon six for Valley Catholic, while Grant Union's Ferguson led all scorers with 14. For the game, Valley Catholic hit just 15-of-41 shots from the floor and 13-of-18 foul shots while committing 14 turnovers. The Prospectors, meanwhile, made 16-of-35 from the field and 6-of-12 foul shots while committing 17 turnovers.

'The shots weren't falling at all tonight and we knew we had to win the game with defense,' Johnson added. 'We came out, tried pressuring the ball, tried getting turnovers at key points and we got those.'

'Gates was out the last two days with ear infection, and Andy got in foul trouble,' Gallagher said, explaining his team's sub-par shooting night. 'But Ben Johnson came on and was huge for us and so did Chris Kiefer in the first half. He's really productive. It's nice to have that option.'