CALDWELL — As far as starts go, the first few moments of the 1A Division I state semifinal between the Valley High School boys basketball team and Potlatch on Friday couldn’t have been better for the Vikings.
Senior Zane Mussmann scored just 10 seconds into the game to give Valley a 2-0 lead. However, after Potlatch’s Brayden Hadaller tied it up at 2-2 a few minutes later, it was the last lead Valley would see.
Despite a valiant comeback effort over the remainder of the game, the Vikings could never get back ahead of Potlatch, and lost to the Loggers, 45-41.
“I knew our guys would battle back,” Valley head coach Brian Hardy said. “They’re veterans and they know what they need to do. They just couldn’t get that one last stop.”
That Hadaller basket kicked off a 12-0 run by Potlatch to end the first quarter, as the Loggers took a 10-point lead and stretched it to 12 to start the second. Valley (19-5) began to find its feet a bit, but the Loggers kept their distance.
Mussmann made two free throws to cut Potlatch’s lead to 18-12, but six points was as close as the Vikings could get before halftime came.
Out of the break, senior Jason Hardy scored Valley’s first seven points and Mussmann added two more, cutting Potlatch’s lead to five points and forcing the Loggers into a timeout. After a difficult first half, signs of life were poking through for the Vikings.
“We knew we had to hit a couple big shots somewhere,” Brian Hardy said. “We had to get some stops. I felt like that’s the way the game went. We knew we’d have a chance.”
Potlatch pushed back to end the quarter and, after Potlatch junior Connor Akins put the Loggers up, 39-30, Valley made one more run at them. Senior Eddy Cano kicked it off, senior Nic Anderson and senior Alex Korom added buckets, and Jason Hardy drilled a 3-pointer.
Suddenly, it was a one-possession game, as Potlatch led, 41-39, with two minutes to go.
However, the Loggers continued to hold onto the ball, forcing Valley into foul after foul, until, finally, the Vikings had to put Potlatch at the line. Akins made two free throws to push his team’s lead to four points, and the Vikings couldn’t answer in time.
Valley’s final attempts failed to go and the Vikings came up just shy of making a return to the state championship, having made a run to the big game just a year ago.
Mussmann had a team-high of 11 points and pulled down eight rebounds for Valley, while Jason Hardy added 10 points and five assists. Hadaller led all scorers with 15 and Akins chipped in 14 for Potlatch.
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The senior-laden Vikings, whose nine seniors’ chances of a state title ended on Friday, still have one more game to play, as they’ll head to the third-place contest at Vallivue High School at 11 a.m. on Saturday.
Brian Hardy said his team will be excited to be there, and will go out with every intention of winning the last game for those seniors.
“They know it’s not their very last game,” Brian Hardy said. “They have a rock in their stomach right now. It doesn’t feel great, but I could see the look in their eyes. They’re ready to bounce back tomorrow.”