POCATELLO --A frantic, back-and-forth early-season matchup between two familiar foes from eastern Idaho turned on a layup that barely fell through at one end and a free throw that bounced off the rim at the other as Highland beat Blackfoot 62-60 at Highland on Tuesday.
After Carter Layton’s fast-break layup for Blackfoot tied the game at 59-59 with under 30 seconds, Highland pushed the ball right back the other way with a hit-ahead pass to Jayden Bell, who went right to the rim.
His scoop layup through contact gave the Rams the lead back with 20 seconds left at 61-59.
“I had one timeout left, and it was one of those things where it was just, all of a sudden, quick pass ahead, and (Bell) was attacking, so I just let him go,” Highland coach Ty Pearson said. “He rewarded us with a big layup.”
Blackfoot had a chance to tie when Isiah Thomas was fouled on a strong drive with 6.4 seconds left, but he missed his first free throw before making the second.
Highland got the ball in against Blackfoot’s pressure, Easton Durham made one of two free throws, and Reece Robinson’s long 3 at the buzzer was short, giving the Rams the win — plus a chance to exhale.
Robinson led all scorers with 19 points for Blackfoot, which led 19-10 after the first quarter and held that lead for most of the first half before Highland came storming back.
A strong and-1 take by Easton Durham capped a 10-0 run for the Rams and gave them a 32-30 lead at halftime.
From there, the second half was a seesaw as the crowd got louder and louder and the intensity racheted higher and higher.
Robinson scored eight points in the third to lead Blackfoot to a 45-42 lead with one quarter to go, but Highland struck back in a fast-paced fourth quarter as the intensity spilled over into sloppiness, with bodies flying everywhere on both sides.
The Rams led 57-52 with under three minutes to go, but Jayden Wistisen converted a three-point play for Blackfoot and Thomas got to the rim for a layup to knot it again at 57-57 with 1:31 to go.
Highland’s size told on the ensuing possession, as both Mason Mickelsen and Cedar Washakie kept the ball alive with offensive rebounds before Bell, who scored eight of his 11 points in the fourth quarter, was fouled. He made both, setting up the wild finish.
Mickelsen finished with 17 points and 12 rebounds to lead four scorers in double figures for Highland. Durham added 12, Bell 11 and Washakie 10.
Layton and Wistisen had nine apiece for Blackfoot to support Robinson.
Blackfoot (0-2) is at Hillcrest on Thursday.