Experience is a great teacher, and with every postseason game the Mountain View boys basketball team plays, the Thunder continue to gain more of it.
Days after Mountain View fell to Gig Harbor in overtime, the team appeared out of sync during the first half Wednesday against Capital, trailing by nine points at halftime in a 3A bi-district loser-out game.
There was no rah-rah speech at halftime, nothing out of the ordinary said. For a veteran group of Thunder players, it was simply realizing the urgency of the moment. They responded.
“We really just had to take a deep breath and re-gather ourselves,” senior Ledarius Washington said. “We had to understand that this could be our last half. We came out and we played like it.”
Mountain View rallied to outscore Capital 20-6 in the third quarter, then held off several Capital rallies down the stretch to pull out a 54-49 win at home.
The win sets up a winner-to-state regionals game Friday at home against North Thurston, which knocked off Kelso 69-47 on Wednesday.
As Mountain View (14-9) began to rally in the third quarter, the team’s energy was palpable.
Two quick buckets from Washington and Jacob Martin cut into Capital’s lead. Then after Isaiah Vargas made a trio of free throws, Washington and Vargas scored from close range on two straight possessions to put the Thunder ahead 31-29, their first lead of the game with less than three minutes left in the third.
“For us, our offense goes as our defense does,” Martin said. “We came out strong on the defensive end, and the offense kind of just flows when we’re picking up our energy on the defensive end.”
Leading by five to start the fourth, Mountain View pushed the lead to eight after Vargas converted a three-point play with under five minutes to go.
Capital (12-10) stormed back to get within one point on a Carl Schreck 3-pointer at the 1:52 mark. From there, Mountain View closed the game out at the free-throw line. Madden Wilson made two free throws to put the Thunder ahead by three with 25 seconds left. Then after Capital missed on its ensuing possession, Vargas iced the game with two more makes.
Vargas, a senior, led Mountain View with 21 points, Martin chipped in 12 and Washington collected nine.
“Seniors played their butts off,” Martin said. “If we lost tonight, it would (mean) our high school career is over, and we weren’t ready for that. We came out with a lot of energy in the second half.”
Last season, Mountain View made a postseason run of four games in the bi-district tournament, but were denied a trip to the state regional round in a season-ending loss to rival Evergreen.
Now a year older and a year wiser with nearly its entire roster returning this season, Mountain View’s experience is paying dividens.
“All those little experiences helped the guys this offseason (in) the weight room, the gym,” Mountain View coach JC Alexander said. “Just the mentality and the focus that they understand how to play in these games, and that the moment’s not too big for them, it’s huge.”
The winner of Friday’s Mountain View-North Thurston game clinches a berth to the state regional round, while the losing team gets a final chance Saturday in a winner-to-state, loser-out game.
MOUNTAIN VIEW 54, CAPITAL 49
CAPITAL (12-10) — Cooper Carlson 7, Quincy Landers 10, Carl Schreck 14, Wesley Bjornsgard 11, Isaiah Oakland 0, Angus Hubbard 6, Jabrayan Richburg 1. Totals 18 (6) 7-10 49.
MOUNTAIN VIEW (14-9) — Jacob Martin 12, Isaiah Vargas 21, Tyler Aimone 0, Noah Morishige 0, Daniel Dolev 0, Madden Wilson 7, Tage Ghuman 0, Jack Johnson 2, Tre Hughes-Farmer 3, Ledarius Washington 9. Totals 16 (3) 19-23 54.
Capital 14 13 6 16—49
Mtn View 9 9 20 16—54