IDAHO FALLS – When the boys' basketball season began, it was full of hopes and high expectations for the Shelley Russets. The opening game went their way with a win over 3A Sugar-Salem who has built a tradition of winning. This rebuilding of the Russets' program was going to be easy. A new coaching staff was in place and there was talent on the floor. Things were going to be easy.

Hold on, despite a 3-3 start to the season, things were not going to be easy. There were many lessons to be learned and taught and when the regular season came to a close, the Russets were 4-16 and matched up against the top seed in the District 6/High Country Conference Tournament in the Hillcrest Knights.

The Russets were definitely the most improved team in the conference, but they were learning that you can't win on hopes and high expectations. You can't just show up and win games. This conference is tough and you play a bunch of 5A schools along the way and the Russets weren't quite ready for a whole season of that.

The biggest lesson or two that the Russets have had to learn are still the same obstacles they discovered in mid-season: consistency and how to finish an opponent off when you get them down.

Those obstacles reared their ugly heads once again on Tuesday night when they played against Hilllcrest.

The Russets came out firing and playing well, as they have been doing a lot lately. In fact, the Russets were ahead at the end of the first quarter by a 13-9 margin and Shelley seemed to be looking at the possibility of an upset in the first round of the tournament, which has happened a number of times over the past several years.

When the team kept after the Knights through the second period as well, and went to the locker room for half-time still ahead by a point at 21-20, momentum was on the Russets' side and their minds were in the right place.

Something happened during that 10-minute break for the two teams. It isn't the first time it has happened either. The Russets are better than they themselves realize and for whatever reason, doubt begins to creep in and a different team shows up for the second half of play.

The result was a three-point quarter for Shelley, while the Knights put up 15 and for all intents and purposes the game was over. The Russets were down 35-24 and it is so very tough to make up that margin against a team that has won 15 games on the year and were ranked at the top of the High Country standings for most of the season. The Knights cruised in from there for a 52-39 win over Shelley, sending the Russets into the elimination side of the bracket, where they would try and figure it out once again, this time against cross-county rival Blackfoot on Thursday night in Blackfoot . The lser of this game will see their season end and they will begin to make plans for next year with designs on a better year.

HILLCREST 52, SHELLEY 39

Shelley 13 8 3 15 — 39

Hillcrest 9 11 15 17 — 52

SHELLEY — Treyce Jensen 5, Braxton Miskin 5, Alex Lott 8, Jace Thatcher 1, Trevor Austin 13, Jaxon Hess 2, Cannon Vance 5

HILLCREST — Isaac Davis 14, Tre Kofe 10, Jase Austin 5, Garrett Phippen 12, Sam Kunz 2, Given Chatlain 3, Kobe Kesler 3, Talan Taylor 3