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Sunday, March 3, 2024
March 3, 2024

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Mountain View boys basketball beats Kelso to earn No. 1 seed to bi-district

Career-high 39 points from Vargas sparks Thunder in tiebreaker

By , Columbian staff writer

At this stage of JC Alexander’s head-coaching tenure at Mountain View High School, there’s nothing the Thunder’s boys basketball head coach is surprised about when it comes to senior guard Isaiah Vargas.

Not a career-high 39 points, as Vargas scored in Monday’s 69-63 victory over Kelso in the teams’ 3A Greater St. Helens League tiebreaker game at Skyview High School.

Not a momentum-keeping defensive play at the third-quarter buzzer that had the Skyview gym buzzing.

And certainly not in a late-game situation when Kelso was in fouling mode and the ball was in Vargas’ hands.

“The time that he puts in the gym, working and really trying to hone his craft,” the sixth-year Thunder coach said, “everything that you see out there is a product of that.”

And behind Vargas’ big game, the Thunder (13-8 overall) got a big victory going into this weekend’s postseason. They’ll host Gig Harbor (19-2) the second-place team out of the South Sound Conference, to open the 3A bi-district tournament Saturday.

At 7-1 in league play with a road loss to the other, Kelso and Mountain View shared the 3A GSHL title. It’s the first league title for Mountain View since 2009, and they’re carrying that with them to the postseason.

“It means everything,” Vargas said. “This is what we wanted. This was our goal. All four years, this is what we’ve been trying to do.”

But as for earning the No. 1 seed, that meant an extra game to make it happen.

Why was Monday’s tiebreaker needed? Both teams already clinched bi-district playoff berths, but the Nos. 1 and 2 seeds came with different outcomes to reach regionals.

The upside of a No. 1 seed is Saturday’s game hosting Gig Harbor is a winner-to-regional game for the Thunder. Kelso, the No. 2 seed, hosts Yelm on Saturday, but must win three bi-district games to reach regionals.

“We were hungry,” Vargas said. “We felt like we deserved the No. 1 seed.”

As consistently as Vargas played in all 32 minutes, the third quarter is when the senior took charge. He scored 16 of Mountain View’s 22 points in a quarter the Thunder took the lead for good after trailing by eight.

Oh, and he also had a monster block off the glass on a Kelso fast break to end the third quarter. Had Vargas not been there, it likely would’ve been a Kelso lay-in and a lead down to a two-possession game.

Instead, the gym was the loudest it had been to that point.

“That saved momentum and gave us momentum,” Alexander said.

From there, it was all Mountain View.

Ladarius Washington (17 points, five blocks) and Vargas scored all of the Thunder’s third-quarter points and at one stretch, Mountain View went on a 14-4 scoring run.

Washington’s windmill dunk off a fastbreak stretched the lead to 56-45 inside 6 minutes to go. Kelso got no closer than four the rest of the way after a 10-point first half lead and a 38-30 advantage one minute into the second half.

Alexander commended his team’s resiliency all season, and how Monday was the team’s best performance of the year. Right in time for the postseason to begin.

“We were the 2-seed last year, and it was a tough road,” Alexander said. “We’ve got a tough Gig Harbor team — top five in the state — but they have to come to us. And you know, our home floor is pretty tough for us.”

Mike Henderson’s 15 points was one of three Kelso players in double figures.

3A GSHL tiebreaker


MOUNTAIN VIEW — Jacob Martin 9, Isaiah Vargas 39, Tyler Aimone 0, Noah Morishige 0, Madden Wilson 0, Tage Ghuman 4, Jack Johnson 0, Tre Hughes-Farmer 0, Ledarius Washington 17. Totals 24 (5) 16-26 69. 

KELSO — Mike Henderson 15, Zeke Smith 2, Hayden York 14, Ethan Mitchell 13, Blake Eastham 6, Nasier Lucas 0, Easton Marshail 0, Payton Stewart 13. Totals 22 (7) 12-16 63.

Mountain View 16 14 22 17 – 69

Kelso 21 15 9 18 – 63