NAMPA—It wasn’t smooth, it wasn’t expected, and it wasn’t without its share of near-heartbreak and drama.
Then again, nothing comes easily when you’re breaking new ground.
Standout senior Garrett Hawkes poured in 22 points and the North Fremont High School boys basketball team survived a furious second-half comeback to outlast St. Maries 45-37 in a 2A state championship overtime thriller Saturday at the Ford Idaho Center.
It is the first boys basketball title in school history for the Huskies, who finish the season 20-6.
“This means everything,” said Hawkes, who added six rebounds, four blocks and three steals. “We did it as a team, and we did it for everyone. The community, the players who’ve come before us, our coaches, our families. It’s awesome.”
North Fremont prevailed in overtime after narrowly surviving a buzzer-beater. St. Maries guard Eli Gibson went coast-to-coast in the final seconds, but his layup barely rimmed out.
Given new life, the Huskies cruised through the four-minute extra period, getting an inside bucket from Hawkes and making eight consecutive free throws to close it out.
“Coach has been telling us for a long time about the importance of grit,” said senior Blake Oberhansley, who added 10 points for the Huskies. “We knew if we dug deep and gave everything we had, we could pull it out.”
The game was tight early. St. Maries (19-8) led 11-9 after one quarter, but Hawkes and the Huskies dominated the second, attacking the basket and clamping down on defense to take a 23-13 halftime lead.
Slowly but surely, St. Maries turned the tide. The scrappy Lumberjacks outrebounded and, at times, outhustled the Huskies to climb back into it. When senior big man Dan Howard scored to give St. Maries its first lead if the second half with 5:54 remaining, the stage was set for a dramatic finish.
“They have hard-nosed, gritty kids, just like us,” first-year North Fremont coach Shannon Hill said. “They gave us everything we wanted, and I love how they play basketball.”
There were six lead changes in the final six minutes. After St. Maries missed the front end of a one-and-one with 1:06 remaining, North Fremont looked to hold for the last shot. But Hawkes missed a short jumper, allowing the Lumberjacks to call timeout with 5.9 seconds left.
Somehow, Gibson was able to slip to the rim for a clean look as the horn sounded. But it fell off the iron, giving the Huskies a chance to regroup and win it in overtime.
“It doesn’t get to be a bigger deal than this in Ashton,” Hill said. “So many people have waited so long for this. It’s surreal.”
North Fremont held St. Maries to 24 percent shooting, but the Lumberjacks countered by winning the rebounding battle 38-24. Howard led the Lumberjacks with 12 points and 10 rebounds, with Tyler Lohman added 11 points off the bench.
But the day ultimately belonged to Hawkes and the Huskies, as North Fremont’s do-it-all senior continued a family tradition.
His older sister Alyssa was a junior point guard for North Fremont’s 2012-13 girls basketball team which beat Soda Springs for the 2A state title--the first state basketball trophy of any kind for the Huskies, boys or girls. Six years later, he had his turn to savor a program-first blue trophy and championship banner.
“She’s been my role model through this whole thing,” Hawkes said. “We joke about it a lot, but when she hugged me after the game today, I told her I meant it.”