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Valley Christian Panthers Took The Hard Way To State B Tourney

Valley Christian School’s draw in its first State B Basketball Tournament wasn’t easy. Neither, however, was its route getting there.

“It’s kind of interesting,” said VC coach Steve Altmeyer. “The way things ended up at district we were definitely on the tough side. When you look at the state brackets, it’s the same thing. I’ve never seen two so different.”

The Panthers opened Wednesday night against last year’s third-place State B finisher, Darrington, which returns its top two scorers.

Contrast that to the team Valley Christian thrashed 70-36 in the Northeast District 7 finals, St. George’s. The Dragons drew an opener against Snohomish County Christian, which has a 14-12 record.

Of the seven ranked teams that qualified for the tournament, Valley Christian included, five are on the Panther side.

No. 1 Pateros and one-time No. 2 Curlew met in their opener. LaConner returns after a year’s absence with 20-3 record and nine players who were here in 1996, including its two leading scorers.

On the other side of the bracket, the eight teams have a combined 64 losses.

If the Panthers place, they will have earned it.

Not that Altmeyer is complaining. Valley Christian’s first appearance in the Arena for the 8 p.m. tournament game has Panther partisans abuzz.

“I think people are pretty excited around here,” said Altmeyer. “Some teams who have been there several times think it’s no big deal. But it’s hard to get to state. I don’t think people realize it might happen once in a lifetime.”

The Panthers got their chance by beating Panorama League division champions back-to-back, including Curlew, to qualify for state.

That game was won, although Derek Sandin fouled out in the midst of his finest effort, with Brian Sears and Jared Evans also in foul trouble.

“Seven kids really played a key role all year,” said Altmeyer. “Two guys on the bench (freshman Brent Decker and sophomore Evans) could start.”

They join Michael Spuler, point guard Jeremy Decker and sophomore Eric Smith at the core of Valley Christian’s success.

“Jeremy does the job night in and night out,” said Altmeyer. “Defensively, he sparks it.”

Three district victories later and the state dream came true for VC.

“I felt like we played our best games at districts,” said Altmeyer. “The last two were as good as we played all year.”

From last year’s season-ending overtime district loss and through the summer, the players understood the opportunity that was being presented them, said Altmeyer.

“The seniors wanted to accomplish a lot,” he said. “They were not just satisfied with playing in the district tournament again.”

It resulted in the Christian school’s second divisional title, but first league tournament and district tournament championships.

Now the Panthers are playing in their first state event, as much a testimony to religious commitment, said their coach, as athletic talent.

“Our whole philosophy is centered around God. We have a tremendous freedom to put God first and believe if we do we will be successful,” said Altmeyer. “The talent has been here. The Lord brought it together.”

Bears at regionals

Central Valley’s boys and girls basketball teams have made more regional appearances than any Greater Spokane League schools.

CV’s girls are in the Lamb-Weston 4A Eastern Regional for the 10th time in its 11 years and the boys are making their ninth appearance.

But each has just one regional title, the boys in the first tourney in 1988, the girls during their state championship season in 1993.

That won’t change after Tuesday night’s first round tournament games. Both teams were beaten, the boys 65-51 by hot-shooting Walla Walla and the girls 49-35 by Big Nine co-champion Richland.

Overzealous officiating took the boys team out of its game in the first half and it never recovered.

Pressure generated by the Blue Devils’ near-perfect offensive plan forced CV into errant shooting thereafter.

CV, the GSL district champion, hit just 36 percent of it’s shots. Tom Perkes was the only consistent scorer from the field with 14 points. John Depew, 6-for-6 from the line, added 10.

By contrast, Big Nine fourth-seed Walla Walla hit 53 percent from the field and missed only four of 23 free throws.

The girls, third from district fared no better against Richland.

The two CV schools now play loser-out games, the girls against Mead at 4 p.m. and the boys against Ferris at 5:30 in Richland.

Baseball office open

Spokane Valley Boys Baseball offices are open four days a week and the league is accepting registrations for the upcoming season.

Office hours are Tuesdays and Wednesdays 6-9 p.m. and Fridays and Saturdays 9 a.m.-noon. Games are played Monday through Thursday and occasionally on Friday in June and July.

Umpiring pays $18 per game and is a way to make summer money. For information call 922-0420.

River City Steelers tryouts

Premier team soccer tryouts for the River City Steelers will be Saturday and Sunday at Shaw Middle School, 4106 N. Cook in north Spokane.

The Steelers are affiliated with Spokane Valley Junior Soccer Association.

Times for boys tryouts are 1-3 p.m. for u-14, 3-5 p.m. for u-15, 11 a.m.-1 p.m. for u-16 and 9-11 a.m. for u-18.

Girls tryouts are 10 a.m.-noon for u-14, 12:30-2:30 p.m. for u-15 and 3-5 p.m. for u-16.

For information, call 456-3379.

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Photo