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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Sports >  High school sports

Xavier Kamalu-Vargas solid at the line, Mt. Spokane outlasts Ferris in Greater Spokane League 3A battle

UPDATED: Fri., Jan. 21, 2022

League games are always important.

But the new schedule in the Greater Spokane League this season has each team facing the others just once in league play – so teams have to make each one count.

It gives a playoff atmosphere to each game, and with that comes the intensity and physical play to match.

That was the backdrop to Friday’s matchup between Mt. Spokane and visiting Ferris, two of the top 3A teams east of the Cascades. Add in that two of Ferris’ starters are Mt. Spokane transfers and it adds another layer of complexity to the game.

Xavier Kamalu-Vargas scored 21 points, eight in the fourth quarter and all at the line, and the Wildcats held off the Saxons 71-64 in a game that saw nearly 40 fouls called.

Mt. Spokane (12-2 overall, 2-0 GSL) hit 14 of 22 free throws in the fourth quarter and 23 of 34 overall. Maverick Sanders scored 12 points and Andrew Rayment added 11 for the Wildcats.

“I knew I was gonna miss some because the nerves, but other than that, I knew I was good,” Kamalu-Vargas said. “It was very important win. Ferris is a good team, we’re a good team and it came down to the end.”

Said Mt. Spokane coach David Wagenblast: “I’m really proud of this group with regards to taking each game like it’s the most important game on our schedule, And tonight was definitely a game that, you know, that we really needed.”

The Saxons (9-4, 1-2) were led by Trayce Atkins with 19 points and Kruz Wheeler added 15.

“It was a kind of a playoff atmosphere with regards to how badly each team really went at it,” Wagenblast said. “It put a lot of emphasis on every possession and so kids were diving on the floor and kids were running into each other and because of that, yeah, the physicality got a little bit more than most games.”

Ferris point guard Ray Ray Bergerson injured his leg in the second quarter and did not return.

“Our point guard going down with a bad ankle, you know, that threw things off for us. That’s not an excuse,” Ferris coach Sean Mallon said. “The way our kids rallied, you know, when that happens, especially when it’s your starting point guard, you have an option to kind of throw in the towel or you have an option to just kind of grind it out. I thought they did a good job playing really hard.”

Early in the fourth quarter, Chapel Smith hit a 3-pointer to stretch the Wildcats’ lead to 10. With 4 minutes left, Ferris’ Kobe Smith converted a three-point play to get it back down to five.

It turned into a free-throw shooting contest after that – led by the senior Kamalu-Vargas.

“He’s a kid that I love him having the ball,” Wagenblast said. “And so for him to be on the line, knowing that as a senior, and he’s a captain of the team. I mean, what a great kid to put in those kinds of pressure situations. And he loves it.”

Mt. Spokane got out to a 10-4 start, with Sanders and Kamalu-Vargas converting turnovers into layups.

The Saxons got 3s from Wheeler, Dylan Skaife and Bergerson and tied the score at 19 after one quarter.

The teams traded scores at the start of the second, as Sanders scored a couple of baskets on the inside and Alec Roland hit a 3-pointer for the Saxons.

But Bergerson went down favoring a leg moments later and left with a trainer.

Rayment and David Roe scored on follow-ups on consecutive possessions and the Wildcats made it a six-point lead with 2 minutes left in the half. Ben Ehlert hit a midrange jumper just before halftime and Mt. Spokane took a 39-33 lead into the third quarter.

The scoring slowed significantly, but the physical play increased. Mt. Spokane’s Aiden Prado went down hard on a layup attempt with no call and 2 minutes later, players had to be separated at midcourt after contact, with football players Prado and Wheeler in the middle of it.

“Our kids want to play well against them. And of course, (Ferris) wants to play well against us,” Wagenblast said.

“And at the end of the day, you know, I was just like, ‘Guys, it’s a basketball game.’ I was proud of my kids for staying composed when tempers started to flare.”

Atkins had six points in the quarter for Ferris, but Mt. Spokane led 48-42 entering the final quarter.

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