The trip to the state capitol this year was everything the Preston boys‘ basketball team hoped it would be. Preston earned their fourth state title in five years when they beat Moscow in the final match, March 7 in Boise. They also dispatched Idaho Falls and Middleton in the process. The game with Middleton, which went right down to the wire, was arguably the best game to watch in the 4A bracket.
Against Moscow, the Indians jumped out to a 2-8 lead in the first quarter of the state championship game, and never looked back. The Bears were largely a question mark before the contest having no common opponents with the Indians before the tournament. So the strong start was welcome.
Ty Hyde opened the scoring and Preston went up 4-0 before Moscow answered with a three, and then took the lead 6-4. It was the last time the Bears led in the contest as Preston shut them down, allowing only two more points in the quarter while scoring 16.
The Indians limited Moscow to single digits in all but the final frame. After taking a 35-17 lead at the half, Preston’s intensity faltered in the third where they scored just seven points, but the Bears were unable to take advantage of the lapse, scoring only five.
Though Moscow outscored Preston 21-17 in the fourth, it was too little too late and Preston won, 59-43. Cooper Hobson was key, with four back-to-back three pointers in the first half. Unlike the Middleton game, the Indians also shot well from the charity stripe, leaving no holes for the Bears to exploit.
Hobson led the team with 17 points. Luke Smellie followed with 13 points, nine rebound and eight assists. Ty Hyde added 12 points five rebounds, three assists and four blocked shots effectively keeping Moscow out of the paint. Cole Harris’ six points in the first half were vital to Preston’s early momentum. Garrett Ward added five and Scott Dunn, Gabe Hammons and Brecker Knapp two each.
Against Middleton, Preston prevailed 51-50 in a game that had fans on their feet numerous times as they tried to provide a sixth man to help their respective teams. Their cheering was deafening.
The gym was packed and people were turned away for lack of seating to watch the hotly contested match between the top two teams in 4A.
The game featured eight ties and eight lead changes before the final buzzer. Preston put the first points on the board with a bucket from Cole Harris but could not get any breathing room at any time during the contest.
“Every time we would get up three or four they would hit a three,” said Coach Tyler Jones. “They are a solid team.”
Though the Vikings tied it up, they never led in the first half. Preston’s largest lead came one minute before the half when Preston went up 26-20 and took that lead to the locker room.
Middleton came out strong in the third quarter and outscored Preston to take a four-point lead just under a minute in. The Indians tied it up on a three-pointer by Garrett Ward and retook the lead at the 6:00 minute mark. The Vikings stayed right with Preston tying it up twice more and took a five-point lead before Preston rallied and cut it to three to start the fourth. The highlight of the quarter for the Indians was a breakaway two-handed dunk by Luke Smellie that brought fans to their feet.
The fourth quarter was full of emotion as both teams battled for every possession trying to gain an advantage. Finally, trailing 49-50 with 56 seconds left Smellie brought the ball down and pulled up for a jumper that put Preston ahead 51-50 with 24 seconds to go. A jump ball, a steal and a foul brought the clock to 5.2 and Middleton had possession. Their shot was short, bounced off the rim and Scott Dunn came up with the rebound for the win.
The Indians came to Boise knowing that the first game would determine their chances for a state title. Add in that they were playing the very team that crushed their hopes for a fourth consecutive state title in the championship last season and it made for a very motivated team. They defeated the defending state champions 58-47.
in the quarter finals game, Idaho Falls won the tip off, but after that it was all Preston in the first quarter. Ty Hyde put the first points on the scoreboard with two free throws and the Indians went up 15-2 before the Tigers were able to rally. Preston’s early lead gave them all the cushion they needed to win despite scoring just six points in the final frame.
“I liked our start,” said Jones. We had good energy and really got Ty going especially in the first half. If you can do that it puts you in a good position to relax and settle in a bit.”
Leading 21-11 at the end of the first quarter Preston never trailed in the contest and never let Idaho Falls get close enough to be a threat. Leading 35-23 at the half where Hyde scored 16 of his game high 26 points, the challenge was to maintain their intensity and keep the Tigers from making a comeback.
To their credit Idaho Falls never gave up even after trailing by 21 late in the third quarter. Erase the first quarter and they played the Indians close the rest of the way, even outscoring them 13-6 in the fourth quarter.
“They are a solid team,” said Jones of the Tigers. “It was a good win in the first round and put us in a good spot.”
In addition to Hyde’s 26 points and 14 rebounds, Luke Smellie added seven points, 11 rebounds and nine assists. Scott Dunn chipped in nine points, Copper Hobson eight, Cole Harris six and Garrett Ward two.