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Thursday, December 12, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Sports

Post Falls needs rally to win 5A state opener against crowd-favorite Nampa

By Jordan Rodriguez Special To The S-R

NAMPA, Idaho —The Post Falls boys basketball team took upset-minded Nampa’s best punch and lived to fight another day at the 5A state tournament.

With a fired up crowd cheering on the hometown Bulldogs, junior guard Max McCullough and the top-ranked Trojans rallied to overcome a seven-point halftime deficit and escape with a 52-51 victory Thursday at the Idaho Center.

Post Falls (23-1) advances to play Capital (18-6) in an 8 p.m. semifinal Friday.

“That’s as poorly as we’ve played in 24 games this year,” Post Falls coach Mike McLean said. “We had 15 turnovers in the first half, which is just unacceptable. But in the end, we’re happy to get the win. This time of year, it’s not about being pretty. It’s survive and advance.”

Turnovers, cold shooting and a general sluggishness contributed to the Trojans’ poor start as Nampa seized an early lead. The Bulldogs trapped on defense and attacked in transition, building an improbable 30-23 halftime lead.

Nampa (13-13) was a surprise just to qualify for the tournament in their first year competing at the 5A level. But with a partisan crowd pulling for the upset, the Bulldogs had the Trojans on the ropes.

“I thought we came out flat,” McCullough said. “The first game at state is the toughest one, and we just didn’t play very well in the first half.”

Post Falls came out of halftime with a sense of urgency, scoring the first seven points to tie the score. But Nampa, led by point guard Kooper Wilcox (17 points, six rebounds), continued to battle, taking a four-point lead into the final period.

That’s when McCullough took over. The lightning-quick junior converted back-to-back three-point plays to re-tie the score early in the fourth quarter, then hit a 3-pointer to give Post Falls a 47-44 lead with 3:07 remaining.

The Trojans would never trail again. McCullough hit a transition layup and two free throws to extend the lead to 51-44, giving him 13 points in the quarter. Nampa climbed back into it in the final seconds, with JD Schutt (12 points) nailing a 3 with 4 seconds left to make it a one-point game. But Nampa was out of timeouts, and Post Falls allowed the clock to expire without inbounding the ball.

McCullough finished with 19 points, four rebounds and four assists for Post Falls. Senior post Jake Blakney added 10 points and eight rebounds, while freshman reserve Jacob Pfennigs chipped in eight points and eight boards.

McLean pointed out an unsung hero for the Trojans—sophomore Wyatt Millsap. The speedy reserve hounded Wilcox throughout the second half, wearing him down as the game reached crunch time.

“I thought Wyatt was the player of the game,” McLean said. “By the end of the game, [Wilcox] was so tired, he couldn’t get them into their sets. I thought that made a huge difference for us.”

Mountain Home 47, Lakeland 32: The Tigers used a 22-point fourth quarter to pull away from the Hawks, and advance in a 4A state tournament game in Boise.

Tyler Derrick led Lakeland with 15 points, and Jake Ram added 11 rebounds.

The Hawks will face Burley tonight at 2 p.m.

Weiser 46, Kellogg 40: Alberto Sanchez scored 14 points and the Wolverines held off a Wildcats’ comeback with a 3A state tournament win at Meridian.

Led by Tucker Gust’s 12 points, Kellogg used a 29-point second half to almost erase their 24-11 halftime deficit.

Kellogg will face Parma today at 12:15 p.m.

St. Maries 58, Declo 54: Jacob Greer had 12 points, Logan Feasline grabbed 11 rebounds and the Lumberjacks defeated the Hornets, advancing to the semifinals of the 2A state tournament in Boise.

St. Maries will face Soda Springs tonight at 5:15.

Dietrich 87, Lakeside 58: Austin Fenstermaker had 23 points and 25 rebounds and the Blue Devils defeated the Knights in a 1A Division II game. Hunter Kolar had 24 points for Lakeside, who will face Council tonight at 5:15 p.m. in a loser-out contest at Caldwell.

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