Central Valley coach Mike Laws likes to say he has seven or eight players that could start on any team in the Greater Spokane League.
Sophomore guard Dylan Darling helped prove it Saturday night.
Darling scored 17 points off the bench and No. 4 Central Valley edged No. 5 Federal Way 76-72 in a 4A regional game at University HS.
CV (22-2) advanced to a quarterfinal at the Tacoma Dome on Thursday. Federal Way (23-5) faces an elimination game on Wednesday.
“That’s always my mentality – come out and be aggressive – and shots were going in tonight,” Darling said.
“Dylan Darling came in and was just everything we needed him to be off the bench today,” CV senior Jayce Simmons said.
“He’s just a guy that comes off the bench, comes in and does his job,” Laws said. “He was great. He’s got the quicks. They had a hard time keeping in front of him, and that created some opportunities.”
A trio of all-league players came through for the Bears. Noah Sanders led CV with 22 points, including a big 3-pointer and a 1-and-1 conversion in the last 45 seconds; 6-foot-10 Gavin Gilstrap had 16 points with 12 rebounds; and Simmons added 10 points.
“It’s nice not to play on Wednesday,” Simmons said of state play. “Absolutely. Another day of preparation. We’re super excited. Save the legs a little bit. I mean, we got a big guy (Gilstrap) over here playing big minutes. Get him rested.”
Federal Way’s all-stars played like it as well. Bradley Graham scored 20 points, Peter Erickson had 19 and Jared Franklin added 18 for the Eagles.
A couple of college coaches were in attendance to scout the Federal Way players. The Eagles had six transfers this year to go along with holdovers Franklin and Graham.
The Bears picked up on that.
“Yeah, you notice,” Simmons said. “When there’s guys standing on the baseline, look like they’re here for somebody. I mean, we’re just here to win ballgames. We don’t have really any Division I guys as of right now, and so we take pride in playing as a team and winning ball games.”
“You know, we’re from Veradale,” Laws said. “I think it takes a lot to get people to actually look and see these kids are pretty good.
“They’re starting to open some eyes. Now we’ll get over to the Dome and a few more will see ’em.”
CV led by two after three quarters. A turnover turned into a Franklin dunk and FW went up 63-60 with 5 minutes left.
“It was just a hard-fought game of basketball,” Laws said. “You know, they got a little run and got up on us. But there was no panic, just kind of stayed the course.”
Darling hit a 3-pointer to tie it. Gilstrap swatted Franklin and Darling hit a scooping layup with the left hand, and CV took a 69-67 lead with 90 seconds left.
Sanders’ 3 next time down completed a 9-0 run and CV led 72-67.
Erickson stopped the run with a floater with 27.6 seconds left.
Sanders hit both ends of a 1-and-1, then fouled Erickson on the floor before he could launch an attempt at a game-tying 3.
Erickson hit the first free throw, then Federal Way was called for a lane violation on the intentional miss. FW’s Jace Pleasant was called for an intentional foul on the inbounds play. Sanders hit both and CV held on.
Up by five at intermission, Darling drove the lane and scored with contact, then Gilstrap hit a turnaround jumper from in close to put CV up by nine early in the third.
Federal Way went on a 7-2 run, including a long 3 by Erickson, and closed to within two at the end of the quarter.
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