Valley Catholic boys basketball cruises into the Class 4A second round on Saturday

TIMES PHOTO: LON AUSTIN - Valley Catholic senior Ben Robbins and the Valiant boys basketball team beat Crook County in the 4A playoffs.

After a low scoring first half the Valley Catholic Valiants exploded in the second half as they rolled past the Crook County Cowboys 46-27 to earn a berth in the first round of the OSAA Class 4A state playoffs.

"I thought out team played well in the first half," Valley Catholic head coach Joel Sobotka said. "Crook County played really hard and we didn't shoot the ball very well in the first half, but I thought we defended well. The third quarter we came out and it's amazing when you make some shots guys get really excited. But I thought that we kept defending and kept playing hard in that third quarter and were able to get a lead."

Leading just 14-9 at the half the Valiants scored 19 points in the third quarter while holding the Cowboys to 5 as they take control of the game. Andrew Plambeck, who was 0-7 from the floor in the first half was red hot in the third period hitting four of five 3-point shots to score all 12 of his points in the period as Valley Catholic rolled out to a 33-18 lead.

"I think I just had confidence in my shot and I thought my teammates had confidence in me too," Plambeck said of his slow start. "I had confidence that the next one was going to go in and coach had confidence in me too and ran some plays that I felt very confident with and thankfully they started hitting in the third."

Once they had the lead the Valiants never looked back. The two teams played even in the fourth quarter, but it didn't matter as the Valley Catholic played solid defense and the Cowboys were never able to make a serious run.

After making just six field goals in the first half the Valiants hit 12 field goals in the second half, including five 3-pointers as they hit 18 of 40 shots in the game. Meanwhile, the Cowboys were ice cold the entire game, hitting just nine of 39 shots in the contest.

"I thought we did a good job defensively, especially in the first half," Crook County head coach Darin Kessi said. I thought that our defense was pretty disruptive. We held them to just 14 points in the half, I think that is pretty solid defense. We just couldn't find a way to score."

Both teams started the game in zone defenses and were patient on offense, helping lead to the low score. Still, Crook County got behind Valley Catholic's 1-3-1 defense several times in the first half, but were unable to convert with any consistency.

Valley Catholic didn't shoot much better as the Cowboys double-teamed the ball and closed out hard on the Valiants shooters.

"I wasn't unhappy with the way we ran our offense we just couldn't hit shots" Kessi said of his team's slow start. "We missed some good looks. And when you really look at it I don't think that we really had that many possessions."

Sobotka credited Crook County's defense with some of his team's slow start, but also said that he thought his team was a little tight.

"We have had guys that have been good shooters all year" he said. "I thought that being a playoff game guys came out a little bit excited and I thought that they (Crook County) did a good job. They were changing some defenses and trapping a little bit and we were playing maybe a little bit faster than we needed to, but we came out after half time and settled down."

TIMES PHOTO: LON AUSTIN - Valley Catholic senior Andrew Plambeck caught fire in the second half against Crook County.

While the Valiant's offense shifted into high gear in the second half, Crook County could never get their offense going. In the second half Valley Catholic extended their defense to midcourt, aggressively trapping the ball and preventing the Cowboys from generating many offensive opportunities.

Left to pass the ball around the perimeter Crook County began to commit turnovers, which led to several fast break layups for the Valiants.

Crook County committed 15 turnovers in the game compared to just eight for Valley Catholic. In addition, the Valiants used their size advantage to limit the Cowboys to just one scoring opportunity per possession as they outrebounded Crook County 34 to 21 in the game.

"That was kind of what we had hoped to do is get rebounds and run the floor," Sobotka said. "We've done a good job. Our big kids can run really well and finish inside and we thought if we could get down the floor even if they were in zone we could get some opportunities before they got set."

Kessi also thought that Valley Catholic's size contributed to the outcome of the game.

"They slowed the game down and did a good job on the boards so we really didn't have that many opportunities to score," he said. "I think that their length might have had something to do with that. They made some good adjustments at the half and we weren't able to keep pace."

While Plambeck provided the outside firepower for the Valiants they also were able to score under the basket as Jack Grasberger added a dozen points and Davis Johnson finished with 10, many on fast break opportunities.

"Any time you get a win this time of year it's big," Plambeck said. "There are always things you can improve on, but I think we did pretty good tonight."

Meanwhile, Chase Bales was the lone Crook County player in double figures, hitting a game-high 14 points as he hit three 3-point shots and several free throws in the game.

"It's disappointing," Bales said of the loss. "I think that we played pretty good defense in the first half and gave ourselves a chance, but we didn't make shots. When you have great shooters like they have eventually they are going to get open and they made shots in the second half and we didn't. I think that the coaches had us prepared and gave us the best chance we had to win. We just weren't able to execute well enough."

Kaleb Savage added five points for the Cowboys, while Thatcher and Thaiden Mullan each chipped in with four. Thatcher was seeing his first significant varsity action of the year, while Thaiden was coming off of a 35 point performance against Madras earlier in the week.

However, the Valley Catholic defense mostly kept him from having the ball in scoring position, severely limiting his offensive opportunities.

With the loss the cowboys ended their season with a 10-14 record.

"I was pleased with the effort that the kids gave all year," Kessi said. "I thought that we came on strong the end of the year and have a lot to be proud of. We were able to beat the league champion, so I thought that we made big strides. Valley Catholic is a good team and they have some great shooters and we just couldn't find a way to score enough points to stay in the game in the second half."

Meanwhile the Valiants, 19-6 will host No. 12 seed Cascade Saturday, March 3 at 6 p.m. with the winner advancing to the state tournament March 8-10 in Forest Grove.

"We get to play Saturday for a chance to go to the final eight," Sobotka said. "When you get to this time of year there are no bad teams. They are all good, including Crook County. When you are still playing this time of year you have got to be doing something right, so we still have to take care of business."

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