NAMPA — A roar not heard in more than three decades finally filled the Ford Idaho Center again on Saturday night.
Senior guard Kalvin Bowen scored 23 points — including 11 in overtime — as Idaho Falls outlasted Preston 66-57 to claim its first boys basketball state championship since 1988. It is the 11th title in program history and gives the Tigers their first state basketball trophy since 1999, when they took second.
Senior center Paul Wilson added 14 points and nine rebounds for the Tigers, who finished the season 20-6 by upending the three-time defending 4A champion Indians (24-3).
“It means a lot for our program,” Wilson said. “This was our No. 1 goal all season, and it took a lot of hard work. Our mentality was to go finish it. We knew Preston was a great team, but we came and we conquered.”
Bowen had a chance to be the hero at the end of regulation, but he drove into contact, didn’t get the call and missed his shot in the lane.
He more than made up for it in overtime. Most of his damage came on free throws, but a steal and acrobatic and-one layup in transition turned the tide in Idaho Falls’ favor for good.
“My mentality was to keep attacking,” Bowen said. “Even though I didn’t finish [at the buzzer], I knew I could get to the rim. I just had to keep it going.”
Senior guard Andrew Gregersen scored 11 points for Idaho Falls, while fellow senior Braxton Ball added eight points and 12 rebounds, including nine offensive boards. Ball and Wilson led some dominant glass work by the Tigers, who snagged 22 offensive rebounds and won the overall tally 43-24.
“We really work on our offensive rebounding in practice,” Wilson said. “It’s a great way for us to score some easy buckets.”
The game had good pace throughout. Preston grabbed a 17-13 lead after one quarter, but Idaho Falls rallied to take a 28-27 lead into the break.
Idaho Falls led by as many as eight during the third quarter, but Cooper Hobson beat the buzzer with a 3-pointer to draw Preston within four, 45-41.
Offense was hard to come by in the fourth quarter, but Preston’s championship experience was evident as the Indians rallied to tie it on Ty Hyde’s free throws with 32 seconds left. Idaho Falls called timeout with 9.7 seconds to go and put the ball in Bowen’s hands, but Hyde denied him a clean look.
In overtime, however, the Tigers would not be denied. After Hyde opened the scoring, Idaho Falls scored the next 10 points to secure the victory.
It is a storybook ending for the Tigers’ outstanding senior class. Four senior starters — Bowen, Wilson, Gregersen and Ball — combined for 56 points and 23 rebounds, while Bowen and Wilson each added four assists.
“These seniors have been great all season,” said Idaho Falls coach Howard Hart, whose team ended the season on a 12-game winning streak. “It takes a lot of work, and these guys have been willing to do what it takes on a day-in, day-out basis. They led us all the way through.”
Hyde led Preston with 16 points and nine rebounds. Luke Smellie added 14 points and five assists, Scott Dunn scored 12 points and Hobson chipped in 11 for the Indians, who were plagued by foul trouble. Hyde, Smellie and Garrett Ward all eventually fouled out as Idaho Falls enjoyed a 39-26 advantage in free throw attempts. Bowen, in fact, set a 4A state tournament record with 28 made free throws in three games.