GRANGER, Wash. — Riding the same bus nearly two hours out here Thursday for the third time in less than a week, with the basketball season once again on the line, took its toll on the short-handed DeSales Catholic High School girls.
The Irish battled Mabton all night just to stay within single digits until the Vikings pulled away in the closing minutes to knock them out of the Eastern Washington Athletic Conference Tournament with a 38-21 defeat.
Tim Duncan, stepping aside as the DeSales coach after 25 years, congratulated his team on even managing to qualify for the playoffs on a hard-fought 12-11 record without seniors Holly Buratto (torn ACL) and Emily Ness (broken bone).
“It’s tough to go out, but the last game it always tough,” Duncan said. “I’m extremely proud of the kids for this season they put together when we lost two starters at the very beginning. That was tough to overcome. The kids needed time to figure out how our offense was going to work, but they eventually did — and kept getting better and better.
“I’m extremely pleased with how they stuck together, and made this a really good season.”
The Irish won three of their last four regular-season games over a two-week period, and then began a series of long drives out here for the EWAC tournament.
On Saturday, White Swan forced the Irish into overtime before bumping them into the losers bracket with a 75-67 setback.
Back here Tuesday night for a loser-out game, DeSales kept its season alive with a 60-43 rout of Dayton-Waitsburg.
Two days later, the tournament dragged the Irish back here for another battle.
DeSales took Mabton into a low-scoring exchange, managing to keep the Vikings within striking distance with only a 26-16 lead after three quarters, but then the Irish soon saw the game get out of reach.
“They started to pull away in the third quarter,” Duncan said. “We were only down 10, but then they hit a couple of big shots and I had to start pulling girls midway through the fourth.
“To be honest, we were just dead tired,” Duncan said. “We had an overtime game on Saturday, and then an 8 o’clock game Tuesday, driving an hour and 45 minutes way all those days. Plus, the kids are in school all day. We could barely practice Wednesday. This was an especially tough week to be in the losers bracket, and that’s what happened.”
Despite the loss, Duncan came away from this season thinking only positives about his last Irish team.
“I can not say enough about our seniors, both Kenna and Holly Buratto, Emily Ness and Lesley Arceo,” Duncan said. “What they have brought to this program is second to none.”
Vikings 38, Irish 21
DESALES (21) — Arceo 7, Buratto 5, Wahl 5, Thomas 4.
MABTON (38) — Galarza 11, Garzon 11, K. Hernandez 9, Guevara 5, Herrera 2.
DeSales 5 5 6 5 — 21
Mabton 8 9 9 12 — 38
3-point goals — DeSales 1 (Buratto), Mabton 7 (Hernandez 3). Total fouls — DeSales 11, Mabton 10. Fouled out — none. Technical fouls — none. Rebounds — DeSales 32 (Arceo 8), Mabton 24 (Hernandez 6). Turnovers — DeSales 21, Mabton 11. Assists — DeSales 6 (Buratto 3), Mabton 7 (Hernandez 3).