NAMPA, Idaho – Tournament basketball is all about two words: survive and advance.
The Post Falls boys did exactly that in their 5A state opener Thursday, hanging on for a 55-53 victory over Vallivue at the Idaho Center.
Junior guard Connor Hill and sophomore guard Marcus Colbert each scored 13 points for the Trojans, who made just enough plays down the stretch to advance to today’s 6 p.m. semifinal against Madison.
“We knew coming in that Vallivue was a very good team,” Post Falls coach Mike McLean said. “I truly thought the difference tonight was our depth. We had 11 players play tonight, and every player contributed.”
Madison knocked Post Falls out of state title contention with an overtime victory at last year’s tournament. The Trojans earned a rematch by grinding out a back-and-forth game that featured eight ties and 12 lead changes.
“We felt like we should have beat (Madison) last season,” Hill said. “I’m excited to play them again.”
Post Falls (20-4) might not have advanced without Hill, who scored 12 of his 13 points in the second half to keep the Trojans’ offense afloat.
“It felt great,” Hill said. “My coaches said I wasn’t following through in the first half, so I focused on that and shots started going in.”
Seniors Shawn Reid (12 points) and Malcolm Colbert (nine) also contributed to Post Falls’ perimeter-oriented attack. Vallivue (18-6) countered with an inside game featuring forwards Zach Kelsh (18 points, 10 rebounds) and JJ Hyde (15 points, 10 rebounds).
Kelsh carried the Falcons down the stretch. The 6-foot-5 senior hit a layup that cut Post Falls’ lead to 53-50 with less than a minute to play. Reid made two free throws to make it 55-50, but Kelsh knocked down a 3 to make it 55-53 with 2.8 seconds left.
Marcus Colbert missed two free throws that could have clinched it, allowing Kelsh to launch a desperation heave from beyond midcourt. The shot looked like it had a chance, but it bounced harmlessly off the backboard as the Trojans celebrated.
“It looked good from my angle,” Hill said. “I was just happy it didn’t go in.”
McLean shared Hill’s relief – and his enthusiasm about getting another shot at Madison.
“We’re excited to play Madison,” McLean said. “We are trying to build an elite 5A program like (the Bobcats) have, so we want to play them.”
Borah 52, Lake City 46: It had been eight years since the Lake City boys last qualified for state.
According to coach Jim Winger, the Timberwolves’ inexperience showed during Thursday’s 52-46 opening-round loss to Borah.
“We were a little tentative at the start of the game, especially on defense,” Winger said. “We’ve been rock-solid defensively all season, but we dug ourselves an early hold and never quite got over the hump.”
Lake City trimmed a 13-point deficit down to two with 1:41 remaining, but could not get any closer. Junior guard Chris Wheelock led the Timberwolves (13-10) with 13 points, while senior guard J.J. Stoddard added 11.
Borah senior Craig Spjute led all scorers with 23 points as the Lions (15-11) advanced to play Eagle in Friday’s semifinal round.
Lake City falls into the consolation bracket, where it will face Rocky Mountain (15-10) this afternoon.
“It took a little while to brush the dust off, but we finished the game well,” Winger said. “I told the team after the game if we win tomorrow, we have a chance to bring back some hardware, so let’s get it done.”
Moscow 47, Rigby 42: The Bears (17-6) outscored the Trojans (13-13) by eight points in the final quarter to rally for a first-round victory at Borah High School in Boise. Mac Stannard scored 15 points, including 8 of 8 free throws, and Nick Clyde 14 to lead Moscow.
Priest River 62, Homedale 51: The Spartans (20-3) took off to a 15-point lead in the first half on their way to the victory over the Trojans (13-11) at Meridian HS. Jake Wiemer scored 27 points, including 11 of 13 free throws and grabbed 16 rebounds to pace Priest River.
Snake River 48, St. Maries 47: The Lumberjacks (11-9) were on the way to an upset over the Panthers (19-4) after posting a 12 point-lead in the second half, but Snake River rallied in the fourth quarter for the victory. Zach Lehman scored 17 points and Ian Heath 14 for St. Maries.
Dietrich 70, Kootenai 53: Taylor Dodson lead four Warriors in double figures with 13 points but Kootenai (12-10) fell to the Blue Devils (19-9).