MOSES LAKE — It’s not like the bubble burst on Big Bend’s season with Saturday’s 98-92 NWAC East loss to Treasure Valley at DeVries Activities Center.
They missed a golden opportunity to separate themselves from a three-way contention for the fourth and final playoff spot in the NWAC East. But they still hold on to the playoff possibility with a win at Yakima Valley on Wednesday and a North Idaho win over Wenatchee Valley.
Here’s how it shakes out: Yakima Valley (9-6) swept Wenatchee Valley (9-6) during the regular season. Wenatchee swept Big Bend (8-7). If the Runnin’ Vikes beat the Yaks for the second time this season, and North Idaho beats Wenatchee Valley, all three will end up with the same East Region record and they’ll have to go to a playoff for the final tournament berth.
It’s not ideal first-year Big Bend head coach Mingo Scott said, but it’s better than nothing.
“We’re still alive if North Idaho beats Wenatchee at (Christianson Gym), which is a good possibility,” Scott said. “If that happens and we win at Yakima, well have a three-way tie and we’ll have a playoff because no one holds a distinctive tie-breaker.”
Treasure Valley (8-7), which is on a four-game winning streak, would have to get by East-leading Walla Walla to be in the discussion. For the time being, the Chukars played spoiler, using a 6-2 run in the end to stave off the Runnin’ Vikes.
Big Bend closed to 82-81 when a Koby Huerta 3-point shot made it a one-point game with 3:25 remaining. The lead changed hands 10 times. Huerta threaded the needle a running pass through the Treasure Valley defense to Mauricio Smith for the layup to get it to 86-85.
The Chukars ran it back up to a seven-point lead with a 6-0 run, punctuated with a 3-pointer from the corner by Tyus Jefferson, who finished up the game with a team-high 24 points.
Big Bend freshman DeAngelo Stowers, a 6-foot-2 guard from Upland, Calif., went on a 5-0 tear, converting the conventional three-point plan and connecting on a runner across the lane to make it 92-90 with 1:04 remaining.
“We knew it was a big game and this is a totally different team than at the beginning of the year. The guys believe in themselves,” said Smith, who was 10-of-19 from the floor and 7-8 from the line. “It’s disappointing, but there’s still life if we go out and execute against Yakima.”
The Runnin’ Vikes overcame a six-point deficit at the intermission with a nice little burst. Huerta, who was 4-of-8 from 3-point range, knocked down a trey, then blew by the defense coast-to-coast on the ensuing possession. Smith connected from 3-point range and Stowers drove the lane for a runner off the glass to bring the Runnin’ Vikings to 69-68 at the midway point in the second half.
“It wasn’t a lack of effort tonight. We just made some mental mistakes down the stretch,” said sophomore Blake Dittman, who played his final game at DeVries Activities Center. “When things didn’t fall I think we could have made better shot selection at the end.”
The Chukars took advantage of 13 second-chance points. Stowers had a game-high 29 points for the Runnin’ Vikings. Huerta finished with 22. Miles Brown added 16 points and nine rebounds. Smith had nine rebounds, nine points and a blocked shot.
Big Bend plays the all-important regular season finale at Yakima Valley on Wednesday.
Treasure Valley 45 53 - 98
Big Bend 39 53 - 92
Treasure Valley - Tyus Jefferson 24, Rod Mitchell 9, Jarek Schetzle 22, De’Marcco Alexander 5, Hunter Bailey 22, Edo Okafor 2, Landon Jones 12, Braxton Bailey 2.
Big Bend - Koby Huerta 22, Blake Dittman 8, Collin Ahmann 3, Miles Brown 16, Mauricio Smith 9, Chris Hawkins 5, DeAngelo Stowers 29.