The little man in Victor Koval came out in a big way Friday night.
Chiawana’s 6-foot-4 post scored eight of his game-high 21 points in the final 1:30 to lift the Riverhawks to a 57-54 win over Walla Walla in a Class 4A District 5 boys basketball semifinal.
“The thing about all posts is they all wish they could be guards,” Chiawana coach Chad Herron said. “I told him a long time ago, if you’re going to shoot those, shoot them from the top of the key, which is where you’ll be in our offense.”
That’s exactly where Koval hit his two treys — the first one with 1:26 left to tie the game at 52, the next to give the Riverhawks a 55-52 lead with 19 seconds left.
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“I was open. They left me open,” Koval said when asked if he had the green light to shoot. “Plus, I was feeling good.”
Chiawana (12-9) will face top-ranked and undefeated Richland (20-0) at 8 p.m. today at Art Dawald Gymnasium in Richland for the MCC district title.
“These kids have jelled at the right time. The first part of the year was pretty tough, but now we understand each other,” Herron said. “Our kids are excited to play (today), and I’m sure they’ll come out with great energy.”
The game was similar in its finish to the one the Riverhawks played in Walla Walla just a week ago, when Gabe Porter drilled a 3-pointer to win by a point in the closing seconds. This time, Koval’s two free throws with 4.9 seconds left put Chiawana up by three, putting even more pressure on Walla Walla to hit a big shot.
“We were ready this time,” Koval said.
Wesley Henderson had a tough job after Porter hit a tough runner in the lane to cut the lead to 55-54. Walla Walla had three fouls to give, meaning Henderson had to successfully inbound the ball three times in the face of a hostile pressing defense.
He weathered the pressure like a state champion (Henderson was an offensive guard on Chiawana’s 4A state championship football team), finding a blue uniform each time.
“Wes in an excellent passer. That’s why we put him in that position,” Herron said. “He mixes in some nice pass fakes, too.”
Henderson also hit two big buckets for the Riverhawks as well, helping spark a 15-6 run after Walla Walla took a 48-42 lead on Ross Lake’s jump hook with 6:30 left in the game.
“They just kept battling back. We called a timeout and had a very inspiring huddle. They responded well,” Herron said.
Porter finished with 14 points, tying Lake for team high. Lake added eight rebounds for the Blue Devils.
Walla Walla started off well, taking a 13-4 lead on Porter’s reverse layin midway through the first quarter. The Blue Devils pushed it to 17-7 on another Porter bucket, but Dre Dorton gave the Riverhawks some life, hitting an off-balance 30-footer at the first quarter buzzer to cut the lead to 17-12.
Chiawana charged back in the second, going on an 11-3 run to take its first lead. Deion Singleton gave Riverhawks fans a thrill, flying in from the right baseline for a one-handed dunk to cap the run and put Chiawana ahead 23-20.
Walla Walla wasn’t done either. Andrew Harvey hit a 3-pointer at the same time Porter got fouled away from the ball. Porter was awarded two free throws, hitting one to put the Devils up 24-23.
Walla Walla didn’t trail again until the final seconds of the game.
“If we played them again 10 times, we’d probably split 5 and 5. We’re evenly matched. They just hit a few more shots than we did tonight,” Blue Devils coach John Golden said. “It wasn’t just (Koval’s) shots at the end. We had other opportunities, but a lot of that had to do with Chiawana.
“(Koval) stepped up big for them. That’s what seniors do this time of year.”
CHIAWANA — Singleton 4, Aaric Wren 16, Mendoza 2, Victor Koval 21, Henderson 9, Harris, Dorton 5, . Totals 21-49 10-14 57.
WALLA WALLA — Steele 7, Klicker 7, Gabe Porter 14, Ross Lake 14, Handcox, Locati 3, Little 3, Harvey 6. Totals 20-59 7-14 54.
Chiawana 12 15 13 17 — 57
Walla Walla 17 10 14 13 — 54
Highlights — 3-pointers: C 5-11 (Wren 2, Koval 2), WW 7-20 (Harvey 2); Rebounds: C 37 (Koval 12), WW 37 (Lake 8); Turnovers: C 9, WW 8; Assists: C 11 (Henderson 4), WW 9 (Klicker 4).