PUYALLUP, Wash. – The Central Valley boys basketball team made a deep postseason run last year by winning close games, riding a wave of nail-biters all the way to the state championship game.
Several players graduated from that squad, altering the dynamics of the team, but one characteristic clearly remains – the ability to find a way to win.
Austin Rehkow scored 19 points and hauled down 13 rebounds and Beau Byus added 16 points to help the Bears advance to the State 4A Hardwood Classic in Tacoma with a 61-55 overtime victory over Todd Beamer High School in state regional-round action Saturday at Rogers HS in Puyallup.
“They’re good battlers,” Central Valley coach Rick Sloan said about his players. “This is a whole different team from last year, but, like last year, these guys just find a way to finish games. They just don’t seem to get rattled.”
Beamer (18-8) did its best to shake the Bears’ nerves, even having a chance at the game-winner in regulation, but Bogdon Bliznyuk’s 3-pointer at the buzzer went long, sending the contest into the extra session tied at 53.
“I was right under the net when the shot went up,” Rehkow said about Bliznyuk’s shot. “I was just hoping it won’t fall. We had good defense on him and made it a difficult shot by getting a hand in his face, but I wasn’t sure if it was going in or not until I saw it come off the rim. When that happened I just got ready for overtime.”
The Bears (22-2) trailed 55-53 early into overtime, but the team’s poise soon surfaced as they closed out the contest on a 7-0 run, getting two big free throws late from Rehkow.
“Our motto all season has been to play together,” Sloan said. “I felt we passed the ball well and made them work with our defense. Beamer’s a very athletic team.”
Central Valley advances to the state tournament for consecutive years for the first time since 1968 – the same season the Bears captured the state crown.
The Bears defeated Garfield (53-52) and Union (52-51) in the first two rounds at state last year before falling, 48-42, to Davis in the championship game.
“It feels good going back to state,” Rehkow said. “This one was a little closer than we would have wanted it to be. No one wants to be on that bus, heading home after your season just ended. It makes for a pretty long trip.”
The contest had blowout written on it early as the Bears raced out to a 26-10 lead with Rehkow hitting a pair of 3-pointers.
“We knew they’d make a run,” Sloan said. “They’re too good of a team not to.”
The Titans did just that, cutting the deficit to 30-23 at the half.
Beamer slowly chipped away at the Central Valley’s lead until finally taking a 53-51 advantage on a Juwan Flowers 3 with 1 1/2 minutes to play.
Adam Chamberlian, who scored 13 points for the Bears, tied it at 53 with a pair of free throws with just over a minute remaining.
Neither team was able to convert down the stretch, leading to the overtime.