NAMPA -- The road to redemption to get back on top is something most teams look to use as motivation. For the Sugar-Salem Diggers, the road to getting back on top is finally complete as they held off the Bonners Ferry Badgers 52-47 Saturday in the 3A championship game to win their eighth title in school history and first since 2020.
The first quarter became a bit of jitters for both teams. Bonners Ferry made a couple of turnovers but lead by two at the end of the quarter.
The second quarter continued at the same pace as the first quarter being a low-scoring, defensive affair.
The Diggers in the second quarter got themselves going thanks to two 3-pointers by Daniel Neal. They also put together a 13-0 run to start the quarter. But the Badgers were able to cut that to only down four going into the third quarter thanks to back-to-back baskets by Braeden Blackmore.
In the third quarter Koy Sanderson and Neal teamed up to put the Diggers up 12. Sanderson led all scorers with 14 points. Neal added nine points.
The Badgers led by Blackmore made two buckets in a row to cut it to six at the end of three.
The Diggers got help from Zac Dougherty scoring nine points and grabbing six rebounds while protecting the paint and avoiding being fouled out of the game. He provided a presence in the paint.
The Diggers were only up by one with 4:15 left when Kelton Garner hit a huge corner three to extend the lead. Neal ended the night scoring nine points.
"I felt really confident. My teammates trusted me no matter what even if I missed and get a second opportunity no matter what," Garner said.
As the clock ticked down the Badgers had to foul, but the Diggers hit their free throws to seal the victory and title.
For the Diggers, getting back to the top has been a goal that started this offseason using the theme Redeem Team, a reference to the U.S. Men's Basketball team that won the gold medal in the 2008 Olympics. Getting there for the Diggers is not only an accomplishment, but it is something they've wanted for a couple of years.
"Its redemption. If you band together, you can do it. They did it and it's very sweet, we had sickness and injury," Diggers head coach Shawn Freeman said. "Just a lot of emotions running through me right now, they're all good but its just like it's nice to have that feeling and know that we can do it again."
"We came into this year knowing that we are going to bounce back proving that Sugar basketball is still a threat," Sanderson said.
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