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Yakima Herald-Republic file

In his 13 years as Mabton’s girls basketball coach, Chris McCallum has had some young teams. But none of them compare to this season.

Led in scoring by an eighth-grader and with three sophomores being the oldest members of the team, the Vikings have certainly faced some adversity with that inexperience. But they have recently come of age a bit with back-to-back wins, including Tuesday’s 68-24 victory over White Swan in EWAC West play.

“This is by far the youngest team we’ve had,” noted McCallum, whose team is built around six freshmen. “And we haven’t put our full team on the court yet.”

With 2B and 1B teams allowed to draw athletes from the eighth-grade class, the Vikings have made the most of theirs — Alana Zavala, the daughter of former Mabton standouts Alex Zavala and Michelle Tellez. She’s averaging 16 points with 20 3-pointers and 35-for-49 accuracy from the foul line.

McCallum wasn’t shy about putting his young troops in front of some tough company, traveling to Wahkiakum and Napavine to start the holiday break followed by a tournament in Spokane to play Colfax and Davenport. For that trip to Spokane, the Vikings added a player that didn’t make them older but certainly made them better as freshman Esmerelda Sanchez has contributed games of 12, 17 and 20 points.

Zavala and Sanchez combined for 52 points in Tuesday’s win over White Swan, which took its first league loss and was hampered by an early injury to Nakoda Sampson. Even though the 68 points matched a season high, McCallum liked the effort on the other side the most.

“Our defense was really improved,” he said. “That was the difference.”

The EWAC West looks like an any-given-night league with White Swan, Granger and Goldendale at three wins and Mabton and Highland with two as the first half winds down.

Masking more than ever

With state tournaments for winter sports looming in February and March — and the WIAA has been told by the state not to expect a change in COVID guidance that might prohibit such large-scale competitions — the next question of concern is fan access.

On that topic, the WIAA is preparing to take a hard line.

School officials and athletic directors have had a difficult time enforcing masking requirements at their indoor events during the winter season and that trend comes during a significant spike in cases with the omicron variant.

“The biggest factor that’s going to determine whether fans get to attend (state events) and if they get to attend as usual is if the state Department of Health trusts people will follow the guidance,” WIAA Executive Director Mick Hoffman told the Vancouver Columbian. “We’re forced into those conversations because of the actions happening out in the field.”

Individual counties can be more restrictive with crowd size than the state, as we’re seeing now in Kittitas County. Earlier this week, Skagit County schools announced they would not allow fans at indoor sporting events until further notice.

The Yakima Valley SunDome, one of three venues set to host state basketball on March 2-5, got a mixed report card on masking during two weeks of state volleyball in November. Hoffman indicated masking compliance ranged from 80 percent to days when “we were lucky to get 50 percent.”

The WIAA is working out contingency plans for all venues and their local jurisdictions, including the possibility of not allowing fans at all.

“It’s going to be up to them (spectators) on whether or not we can trust them,” Hoffman said. “I’d rather have mad parents than heartbroken students.”

Be on the alert

With the Yakima School District’s announcement on Thursday that remote learning will be used Jan. 18-24, the other bit of that news is that fans will not be allowed at any home games for Eisenhower and Davis during that period. Streaming options will be available through the NFHS network.

Can’t recall when your school won that state title? Need to settle a bet? One place for decades of Valley sports.

Both of Davis’ basketball doubleheaders this week, hosting Moses Lake on Friday and at West Valley on Saturday, have been postponed. Reschedule dates have been set for Moses Lake (Jan. 18), Eastmont (Jan. 21) and West Valley (Jan. 25). A new date for the first Eisenhower-Davis games, originally scheduled for Jan. 7, is still to be determined.

Westberg ready for return

After being forced to skip a year, the Ray Westberg Invitational wrestling tournament is scheduled to return for its 23rd edition on Saturday at Ellensburg.

The good news is the field has grown to a record 17 teams. The bad news is that with the large field and crowd restrictions in Kittitas County, no fans will be allowed. Streaming options will be available.

Chiawana and Sunnyside, ranked 1-2 in 4A, headline a field that is scheduled to include Eisenhower, Ellensburg, Goldendale, Prosser, East Valley and Selah, which is ranked third in 2A.

The Vikings have five wrestlers ranked in the top eight of this week’s all-classification rankings, as compiled by the Washington Wrestling Report.

The Valley has three all-class No. 1s — Toppenish’s Horacio Godinez (138) and Abel Nava (152) and Granger’s Gage Cook (285).

Cleats vs. Cancer

Davis football coach Jay Dumas will lead a South squad that includes five Valley players in Saturday’s Cleats vs. Cancer all-star football game at Bothell’s Pop Keeney Stadium.

The event is actually a doubleheader with games at 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. Dumas’ South team will play at 3 p.m.

The South will include two of Dumas’ Pirates, offensive lineman Victor Lamas and CBBN MVP Ricardo Acevedo, along with Eisenhower wide receiver Tieg Gilman and Sunnyside defensive backs Chase Yanez and Dustin De Rego.

State bowling change

To lessen congestion at Narrows Plaza, the WIAA has changed the format for the state bowling championships in hopes of limiting potential COVID exposure.

Each of the three classifications will have its own day, starting with 3A on Feb. 3 and followed by 2A-1A (Feb. 4) and 4A (Feb. 5).

Eisenhower remains undefeated in the CBBN with five matches left and is hoping to earn the league champion’s prize of hosting the district tournament. The top two teams and five individuals will qualify for state.

From the sideline

White Swan boys basketball was named the WIAA’s Class 2B team of the month for December. Despite graduating three 1,000-point career scorers, the Cougars were 6-2 in the month, including a 3-0 start in EWAC West play.

Some interesting CWAC boys notes: Ephrata lost last week scoring 70 points but also won scoring 38. ... Ellensburg and Prosser love their 3-pointers, having combined for 181. ... Grandview is 4-0 in league with its top individual scorer, Julian Garza, ranking eighth at 13.1.

Sunnyside has hired Jeff White as its new boys and girls track and field coach.

Reach Scott Spruill at sspruill@yakimaherald.com and follow him at

@ScottSpruill

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