NAMPA -- With 3.6 seconds left, Hillcrest's Gavin Helpworth lobbed an inbounds pass to the Knights' big man Isaac Davis rumbling down court. Davis outjumped the defender to the ball, took a couple of steps and threw down a monster two-handed dunk, much to the delight of the red-clad Hillcrest crowd.
Exclamation point delivered.
The dunk sealed Hillcrest's 62-58 win over Pocatello to earn the Knights their second straight 4A state title in a thrilling championship-caliber matchup Saturday with the Thunder.
Davis actually picked up a technical for hanging on the rim and was ejected for his second technical of the night, but he said it was worth it.
"That was probably one of the best games we've played all year," said Davis, who finished with 22 points, eight rebounds, three assists, and credited his teammates for another balanced effort.
"It's a team sport and you can't win the game with one guy ... it's not just me, it's everybody around here," he said.
Pocatello nearly pulled out the win thanks to one guy. Junior guard Julian Bowie played like he was on a mission after Pocatello was dominated by Hillcrest in last year's title game.
The much-anticipated rematch was far from a replay of last year's game in which Hillcrest and Davis were in control from the start on the way to the program's first state title.
Last year then-sophomore Davis provided a breakout performance that energized the crowd and likely caught the attention of college programs.
It was Pocatello's Bowie who energized the crowd Saturday scoring 20 first-half points with a variety of moves and shots that put the Thunder up 33-30 heading into the half. The lead could have been larger, but Hillcrest (25-1) forced a turnover in the closing seconds and Ike Sutton hit a running 3-pointer at the buzzer.
It was more Bowie in the second half as his 3-pointer with 4:22 left in the third put Pocatello up 45-35.
Down 10, Hillcrest countered by getting the ball down low to Davis, who was unstoppable under the basket.
Davis scored to open the fourth to pull the Knights within 47-46 and Sutton followed with another 3-pointer to put Hillcrest up 49-47. The Knights were just getting started.
By the time the dust settled, Hillcrest had put together a 19-2 run and led by seven before Bowie knocked down a couple of free throws to end the stretch.
Pocatello (25-3) eventually pulled within 58-56 on another free throw by Bowie, but the Thunder would get no closer.
"It wasn't easy," Hillcrest coach Dave Austin said of winning back-to-back titles. "We were tested throughout the year ... luckily we've been in some of these situations and we just had all the confidence in the world."
Austin mentioned part of the game plan was expecting Bowie to be an offensive threat, but it was the other Thunder players Hillcrest needed to contain.
Bowie was 13 of 26 from the field, including hitting 4 of 9 3-pointers to finish with 39 points. When Pocatello needed a basket it was obvious who was going to get the ball and Hillcrest couldn't do much to stop it.
"Before the game I told the guys we're going to hit adversity and they're going to go on runs, and I looked at each and every (player) and I told them we're family," Kobe Kesler said. "This is where we turn when things go south. In that third quarter I pulled them in and said, 'Guys, this is our time. This is what we've been working all year for. We have to go on a run now. This is our legacy we're talking about.'"
During the postgame celebration Kesler talked about the pressure of playing the season with essentially "Defending Champion" tattooed on their foreheads.
"This year it was kind of expected of us," he said of making another run at a state title. "We played all year with a target on our back and that pressure. It was fun to get it done. It almost felt like a burden was lifted off our backs."
Austin didn't use the word legacy, but it was clear the program took another big step under the spotlight of the state tournament.
"That first one's always special," Austin said. "To come back here with a lot of the same kids, but some different kids too, we lost seven seniors last year, so it's a little different. There's a difference, but they are both absolutely great."
Kesler finished with 15 points, Talon Taylor scored 11 and Sutton finished with 10 points for Hillcrest.
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