Whether Grangeville guard Blake Darr’s game-tying three pointer would have gone in will never be known.
Jackson Pritchard made sure it didn’t matter as he blocked the Bulldog sharpshooter with less than 30 seconds to play and drew a foul on the other end Feb. 23, sending the Lumberjacks to a fifth-consecutive district title.
The win in St. Maries’ best-of-three series with Grangeville sends the Jacks to state, where they will face District Five’s top team from West Side.
The Pirates are fresh off two consecutive wins over two-time defending champion Bear Lake, who they beat by three in overtime, and then again by two points to clinch the SEI Conference.
“They’ve got guards that are quick, and one of them is in the top five in southern Idaho,” Coach Bryan Chase said. “It’s going to be a hard-fought game, but after a hard-fought week with Grangeville, I feel like we are battle-tested.”
St. Maries and West Side will play in the third game on day one, tipping off at 5:15 p.m. PST from Capital High in Boise.
“There’s a lot of excitement and a lot of comradery with this team right now,” Coach Chase said. “There’s a different feeling about this team. They’re playing for one another and getting along better than I’ve ever seen them.”
The Jacks come into the state 2A tournament following two wins in three attempts with the CIL top seed, Grangeville.
After a three-point win in game one and a 13-point loss in game two, a winner-take-all game three tipped off Feb. 23.
St. Maries fell into a nine-point hole three separate times in the third quarter before making a late run.
“At that point, we knew if they got up on us any more than that, that it was not going to be possible to come back,” Coach Chase commented. “I think they knew deep down they could do it.”
The Lumberjacks got a series of big plays in the second half, finishing the third quarter down two, and outscoring the Bulldogs 12-5 in the fourth frame of a 50-45 win.
St. Maries held Grangeville to four field goals in the third and fourth quarters combined.
“Kaden (Hammond) had a steal and drove down to the basket to tie it, Jackson made a big three in the fourth quarter, Dan (Howard) had an and-one that was big for us, too,” Coach Chase said. “So it was a lot of things for us to get back into that one.”
The Lumberjacks took a 47-45 lead on a basket from Kaden in the fourth quarter, marking their first lead since the score was 13-11 in the first half.
An ensuing free throw made the score 48-45, with the ball in Grangeville’s possession.
The following block from Jackson on a Bulldog three-point attempt saved St. Maries from a potential overtime period with the state’s third-ranked team.
“We kind of teased him a little bit after that he had more blocks in that game than the whole season,” Coach Chase said. “But that was so crucial to make it a two-possession game. The kids willed their way to a win.”
Jackson tracked down the loose ball after making the block, and drove to the net where he was fouled and sunk a pair of free throws to extend the Lumberjacks’ lead to a final score of 50-45.
A win Thursday would send St. Maries to a semifinal contest Friday at 7 p.m. PST, while a loss would mean a 2 p.m. PST consolation tipoff.