Preston girls photo

Preston point guard Riley Ward, right, dribbles the ball while being defended by Pocatello guard Taylor Bunderson Tuesday night in Preston.

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There’s no question it’s been a memorable season for the Preston girls basketball program.

After all, the Indians defeated several good teams during the 2020-21 campaign, including Logan, Burley (twice), 5A program Highland (twice) and a pair of 6A teams from the Beehive State in American Fork and Pleasant Grove.

Unfortunately for Preston, it could never quite get over the hump against nemesis Century, and that trend continued Thursday night in Pocatello, Idaho. Perennial state power Century scored nine unanswered points over the final two minutes of the fourth quarter to pull away for a hard-fought 47-39 victory in the championship game of the 4A Fifth District Tournament.

In the process, Century (16-5) secured the district’s only berth to the 4A State Tournament and finished the season with a 4-0 record against its rivals to the south. The Diamondbacks, winners of 11 of their last 12 games, edged the Indians by a total of 10 points during their first three showdowns.

“These girls are wonderful young women,” Preston head coach Ryan Harris said. “I’m so proud of each of them and grateful to our administration for the opportunity to be their coach. They played their hearts out and just fell short to a very good team that will be one of the favorites to win the title next weekend.”

Century, which has played in five of the last six 4A state championship games, led by 2-6 points for the lion’s share of the contest and found itself in a dogfight in the fourth quarter. Preston (17-8) went on a 8-0 run, capped off by a pair of Riley Ward free throws, to take a 37-35 lead midway through the quarter.

The D-backs scored the next three points, but the Indians retook the lead at 39-38 on a Kylie Larsen bucket with two or so minutes remaining in the contest.

Unfortunately for Preston, that advantage was short-lived as Century swiftly bounced back with a three-point play by Preslie Merrill about 10 seconds after Larsen scored.

Preston went cold from the field down the stretch and Century, ranked second in the latest 4A media and coaches polls, finished strong.

Larsen wrapped up her high school career — she will play soccer at Snow College — with another double-double and she scored 13 points, pulled down 12 rebounds and blocked a pair of shots. Hailey Meek netted all 11 of her points in the first half for Preston, which got 10 points from Ward — nine after halftime. Ward also contributed with three steals, while Meek and Mickayla Robertson combined for six assists. Robertson was hobbled by a right knee injury, suffered during Tuesday’s win over Pocatello.

In addition to Larsen, Addison Moser, Sydnee Marlow and Karlee Lords played their final games for the Indians, who were ranked in the top five in both 4A polls the entire season. Preston will bring back three starters in Meek, Ward and Robertson.

PREP BOYS HOOPS

West Side didn’t need any late heroics against district rival Malad this time around. The Pirates poured in 28 points in the fourth quarter and celebrated Senior Night with a 69-54 triumph over the Dragons (7-12, 1-6). West Side rallied to force overtime and outlasted Malad, 73-72, a couple of weeks ago.

With the victory, West Side captured a share of the 2A Fifth District regular season title with Bear Lake. The Pirates, however, will be the top seed at the district tournament and will be aiming for their three straight district tournament championship.

West Side (17-4, 7-1) honored four seniors in Brentan Noreen, Jackson Stewart, Lemmon and Jaxon England. Lemmon finished with 17 points, Noreen added 10, Stewart seven and England three. Lemmon scored eight points during his team’s big fourth quarter.

“Good win on Senior Night,” WS head coach Tyler Brown said. “Malad was right there the whole time.”

Bryler Shurtliff chipped in with 16 points for the Pirates, who have won 13 of their last 14 games. West Side, ranked fourth in the most recent 2A coaches and media polls, knocked down nine 3-pointers Thursday.

West Side will host the winner of Saturday’s Aberdeen/Malad game next Tuesday in its district tourney opener.

PREP WRESTLING

Preston hosted 4A power Century on Thursday night and lost by a 51-27 scoreline. The D-backs placed third at the 4A State Championships a year ago.

The Indians got wins from Tavin Rigby (120-pound weight class), Brayden Weisbeck (132), Caigun Keller (145) and Jonathan Seamons (152). Rigby, Keller and Seamons were all triumphant by fall, while Weisbeck battled his way to a 8-7 victory. Preston’s Emery Thorson (170) suffered only his fifth loss of the season and it was to defending state champion Easton Millward.

Both teams forfeited one match, plus there was a double forfeit at 106 pounds. There were five exhibitions matches and Preston won four of them.

West Side competed twice this week as it was outpointed by West Jefferson, 72-4 on Thursday, and by 2A power Malad, 64-18 on Wednesday. The Pirates were very short-handed in both duals and only wrestled in three matches against West Jefferson. Colten Gunderson (152) prevailed by major decision for the Pirates in that dual.

The Pirates reigned supreme in three of the nine contested matches against the Dragons and all three of those victories were in pinning fashion. Tige Roberts (113) stuck a returning state placer from Malad, and West Side also got pins from Hunter Checketts (138) and Aaron McDaniel (285).

Malad picked up 30 of its points via forfeit.

Jason Turner is a sports reporter for The Herald Journal. He can be reached at jturner@hjnews.com or 435-792-7237.

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