YAKIMA — While the names have changed the past four seasons, there is one constant with those Mabton girls basketball teams.
Lots and lots of it — and not just some hard-nosed half-court pressure.
No, the Vikings thrive with what a Tonasket radio announcer described last Saturday, according to Mabton coach Chris McCallum, as “Gnats on fruit.”
Those “gnats” were back at again Saturday at Davis High School, and with their postseason lives on the line, the Vikings delivered what McCallum called one of their best defensive efforts of the season.
Forcing 35 turnovers, including 22 steals, Mabton all but shut down a frustrated Friday Harbor squad, sparking a 43-27 victory that sends the Vikings into the Class 2B knockout round Wednesday in Spokane.
“It’s all about effort. We wanted it,” said freshman Astrid Galarza, who also came off the bench to provide a crucial first-quarter offensive spark en route to a team-high 13 points. “We know what we have to do (on defense). Everyone knows what step to take and we stay together.”
“We had to try and make them (Friday Harbor) uncomfortable and we did that,” McCallum said. “There’s a method to our chaos — it’s organized chaos.
“(And) this is the hardest working group I’ve ever coached.”
Spurred by that effort, Mabton (17-6) will make its fourth straight state trip, with this team advancing despite losing five players, including the top three scorers off last season’s third-place squad.
“No one expected us to come back and make it four straight ... with the exception of these girls,” said McCallum, who’s team’s next step is a loser-out game against Dayton at 9 p.m. Wednesday at the Spokane Arena. “It’s a tough road ahead of us but they can keep winning.”
There’s little doubt of that if they continue playing like they did Saturday.
Mabton forced 20 first-half turnovers and limited Friday Harbor (11-13) to 10 points on 5-of-18 shooting as the Wolverines were unable to get the ball inside and had no outside shooting threat to get Mabton back on its heels.
About the only thing preventing the game from getting well out of hand quickly was Mabton’s own offensive struggles, which included 13 first-half turnovers and 2-for-18 shooting in the second quarter.
But what the Vikings had that the Wolverines didn’t was a sparkplug off the bench.
With the game tied 2-2 past the halfway point of the first quarter, Galarza came on and after missing her first shot, proceeded to hit her next four to help Mabton open a 15-6 lead after one. Then, after Friday Harbor got within 10 early in the second, she responded with a 3-pointer on the ensuing possession and Friday Harbor was never closer than 11 points the rest of the game.
“She got us going,” McCallum said.
“It’s just about being aggressive and being ready to play right off the bench,” Galarza said.
“She’s a very tough freshman,” said Guerrero, who contributed 12 points, five rebounds and several beautiful assists after drawing the defense on drives to the basket and then finding wide-open teammates for layins.
“She creates so much for this team with her dribble drives,” McCallum said. “She’s a special talent who gets it. She’s a competitor — they all are.”
FRIDAY HARBOR — S. Hoffman 6, A. Hoffman 2, Bailey 0, Woods 2, Hopkins 5, Mayer 9, Black 2, Mora 0, Swartz 1. Totals 12-30 2-6 27.
MABTON — N. Galarza 6, McCallum 0, Brittnee Guerrero 12, Astrid Galarza 13, Gutierrez 0, Zavala 4, Sanchez 2, Aguilar 0, Espinoza 0, Rojas 6, Hernandez 0. Totals 17-55 5-9 43.
Friday Harbor 6 4 10 7 — 27
Mabton 15 8 9 11 — 43
3-Point goals: FH 1-3 (Hopkins 1-1, Bailey 0-1, Mora 0-1), Mabton 4-9 (Guerrero 2-5, A. Galarza 1-1, Rojas 1-1, McCallum 0-1, Sanchez 0-1). Rebounds: FH 32 (Black 6), Mabton 34 (N. Galarza 5, Guerrero 5). Turnovers: FH 35, Mabton 22. Steals: FH 2, Mabton 22. Total fouls: FH 12, Mabton 11. Fouled out: None.