NAMPA —The echoes of ‘back-to-back” may be ingrained in the heads of Hillcrest High School boys basketball players for some time.
So close, yet so far from winning the program’s first boys basketball championship in a program first state title game appearance.
Rocky Mountain defeated Hillcrest 59-51 in overtime Saturday night at the Ford Idaho Center, rallying from an eight-point halftime deficit to outscore the Knights 10-2 in the extra period and win its second consecutive 5A state title.
What stings the most for the Knights and their fans: Hillcrest led for almost the entire night (close to 25 minutes of game time).
“We had a pretty decent lead, we just didn’t follow through,” Hillcrest guard Derek Marlowe said. “But I’m proud of every one of us … sometimes being a point guard ,you have to create and you have to get things going for your team and I tried my best tonight but we didn’t accomplish our goal.
“So, onto the next thing in life, right?” he added.
Onto the next “thing” in life, maybe. But Hillcrest made a statement Saturday, Knights head coach Dave Austin said.
The Knights, who got a game-high 27 points from Marlowe, led Rocky Mountain by as much as seven with 5:36 left to play after Marlowe converted an and-one.
But with experience, comes composure. And that’s exactly what Rocky Mountain had as Hunter Ranstrom and Tyler O’Donnell combined for 28 points down the stretch.
Down three with 2:58 to play in regulation, Rocky Mountain took a two-point lead after a 5-0 run. Hillcrest’s Jaxon Weatherly answered with a right handed layup to tie it 49 all.
It was the last jovial moment for the Knights, however, who began the state tournament with back-to-back upset wins.
In overtime, Grizzlies’ Hunter Ranstrom went on a 5-0 run — a 3-pointer and two free throws — to give Rocky Mountain the necessary cushion to become the first repeat 5A boys basketball state champion since Borah in 2012 and 2013.
“Our kids played with so much heart and so much grit, they would not let us lose,” Rocky Mountain coach Dane Roy said.
Marlowe — who traded 3-point baskets with Brock Denison and Garrett Hall during the fourth quarter — made the final basket of Hillcrest’s season. Weatherly added 10 points in the loss for Knights, who end the season 21-6.
The last District 6 school to win a 5A boys basketball state title was Madison in 2007.
“I’m so proud of these young men in here though and everything they accomplished this year,” Austin said. “They could’ve given up at any point in time this season. But they didn’t. They stood behind each other’s backs.”
ROCKY MOUNTAIN 59, HILLCREST 51 (OT)
Hillcrest 11 14 10 14 2 — 51
Rocky Mountain 10 7 12 20 10 — 59
HILLCREST (51) — Derek Marlowe 27, Parker Stevens 2, Trey Johnson 2, Jaxon Weatherly 10, Kyle Austin 8, Bryce Cook 2. FG: 20. FT: 7-12. 3-pointers: 4 (Marlowe 4). Total fouls: 20. Fouled out: Stevens, Johnson.
ROCKY MOUNTAIN (59) — Brayden Hamilton 7, Tyler O’Donnell 16, Cooper Frith 2, Brock Denison 4, Garrett Hall 10, Briggs Ranstrom 8, Hunter Ranstrom 12. FG: 19. FT: 14-23. 3-pointers: 7 (O’Donnell 3, B. Ranstrom 1, H. Ranstrom 1, Hall 1, Hamilton 1). Total fouls: 12. Fouled out: none.