ELLENSBURG, Wash. — Hold West Valley’s top three offensive options well below their season averages and what do you get?
Ellensburg managed to limit the potent senior trio of Austin Strock, Jalen Peake and Tyler Cluff to a combined 29 points, but the Bulldogs lost track of the baseball player and it cost them an eagerly sought bounce-back victory.
Junior guard Jace VanDeBrake, who spends his summers playing infield for the Yakima Valley Pepsi Pak, showed his crossover talent with four 3-pointers and a season-high 20 points to help keep the Rams undefeated in CWAC boys basketball with a 58-51 victory Saturday night.
“We feed off those guys, and when defenses focus on them the rest of us know we have to step up,” said VanDeBrake, who connected on 7 of 10 field goals and bookended an 8-0 run in the third quarter with 3-pointers. “One of our first goals is to get through the first half unbeaten and we’re nearly there.”
The Rams are 8-0 in conference play and will conclude the first half Friday at home against Othello. Ellensburg was undefeated as well until Friday’s upset loss at Selah and now sits at 6-2 with a trip to Wapato up next.
“We expected a tough game whether or not Ellensburg lost yesterday, but since they did lose we knew they’d be even more fired up to come back strong.”
Which is exactly what the Bulldogs did.
Despite West Valley building double-digit leads in the first and third quarters, the home team stubbornly fought back both times. Ellensburg jabbed effectively and often, but West Valley ultimately had the bigger punches.
After VanDeBrake’s fourth trey opened a 42-32 lead late in the third quarter, his crew appeared ready to take full control. But Ellensburg awoke in the final period, forcing turnovers and holding WV scoreless for nearly four minutes — enough time to scratch back within a point a 44-43.
That’s when clutch shifted from VanDeBrake to Cluff and Peake, who had two baskets apiece during a 12-2 burst that secured the outcome. Cluff’s 3-pointer — one of seven for the Rams — stopped Ellensburg’s threatening 11-2 run and Peake followed with a post-up bucket and a fortuitous banked-in 20-footer.
“Tyler has a knack for making a big play and I was wondering if he might find a spot — then he hits that big 3,” said WV coach Jon Kinloch. “We finished well, and Jace obviously had a nice game for us. We have a lot of offense going through two, three players, but our four and five guys are capable scorers. Tonight our depth was a real assest.”
Peake scored six of his 12 points in the final period, and Strock nearly had a double-double with 11 points and nine rebounds. Cluff contributed seven rebounds and six assists.
For Ellensburg, sophomore Garrett Hull scored 11 of his team-high 14 points in the second half and led a big adjustment after the break by attacking the basket and drawing fouls. He made seven free throws as the Bulldogs connected on 13 of 18 foul shots — all in the second half.
“You zero in on Peake and Strock and Cluff and (VanDeBrake) has a big game — that’s a deep team,” said Ellensburg coach Pat Fitterer. “But I was still pleased overall. We were aggressive in the second half and played with toughness. We matched up fairly well, did a good job on the boards and gave ourselves a chance.”
WEST VALLEY — Jace VanDeBrake 20, Jalen Peake 12, Cluff 6, Peters 3, Austin Strock 11, Landis 0, Thurlby 4, Juarez 2, Swanson 0.
ELLENSBURG — Sparling 4, Garrett Hull 14, Junior Ledgard 10, Miller 0, Caskey 7, Doebler 7, Strom 9.
West Valley 17 10 17 14 — 58
Ellensburg 13 7 18 13 — 51
FG: West Valley 21-43, Ellensburg 17-49. FT: West Valley 9-14, Ellensburg 13-18. 3-point FG: West Valley 7-18 (VanDeBrake 4-6, Peters 1-2, Peake 1-3, Cluff 1-5), Ellensburg 4-21 (Caskey 1-2, Doebler 1-3, Styrom 1-6, Hull 1-8). Rebounds: West Valley 33 (Strock 9, Cluff 7, Peake 5), Ellensburg 27 (Strom 9). Turnovers: West Valley 18, Ellensburg 9. Total fouls: West Valley 18, Ellensburg 12. Fouled out: Ledgard.