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Valley Catholic finishes strong to win boys title

(The World Link) — COOS BAY -- Valley Catholic's boys will leave Class 3A as boys basketball champions.

The Valiants held off several second-half challenges from Lewis & Clark League rival De La Salle North Catholic to win the championship game 62-50 on Saturday night.

"It feels great," said Valley Catholic senior Gabe Taylor, who punctuated the win with a dunk just before the final buzzer. "All those hard days of practice are worth it."

The championship win didn't come easily.

Several times Valley Catholic built a lead, only to see the Knights charge back. And every thrilling play in the rallies drew roars from the crowd, by far the best of the week at Pirate Palace.

De La Salle North's last gasp came early in the fourth quarter. Javary Christmas hit his third 3-pointer of the game and then Larry Kemp drove to down the right side of the game and threw up a rainbow shot while falling to the ground.

The ball went in, an official's whistle blew signifying a foul, and the gymnasium erupted at a 43-43 tie with 4:53 to go in the game.

Valley Catholic coach Joel Sobatka called time out to settle his troops down.

"It's nice to have a mature team," Sobatka said, adding that he used the timeout to remind his players to settle down and stay focused.

"We talked this season about finishing," he said. "Finish a quarter. Finish a game. Tonight, I told them to finish the tournament."

After the timeout, Kemp missed the free throw -- a recurring nightmare for De La Salle North -- and Jarrett Gray hit two free throws for the Valiants on the other end.

Gray then had a steal and a hoop and then, after a De La Salle North miss, found Carter Buuck alone in the corner. His 3-pointer swished through and Gray scored again, giving the Valiants a nine-point lead that was, finally, too much for the Knights to overcome.

"It's unbelievable," Gray said. "We worked so hard this year. I'm proud of this team."

Gray and Taylor each finished with 22 points for Valley Catholic.

Kemp had a team-best 13 for De La Salle North, and could only bemoan his woeful 1-for-9 free throw shooting. But he also said the Knights would leave with their heads held high.

"We're disappointed," he said. "But we feel good about our season. Nobody expected us to be here. We kept believing in ourselves.

"I'm proud of everyone on our team."

The Lewis & Clark League swept the top three spots, with Portland Adventist taking the third-place trophy.


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