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Thursday, February 27, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Idaho state basketball: Post Falls stops Highlands duo in OT, wins championship

By Jordan Rodriguez Special to The Spokesman-Review

NAMPA, Idaho – It took an extra four minutes, but the Post Falls boys basketball team’s full-house effort finally overcame Highland’s pair of aces in a brilliant 5A state championship battle.

Junior guard Max McCullough scored 19 points to lead a balanced Post Falls attack as the Trojans fought off herculean performances by Highland standouts Stefan Gonzalez and Connor Harding to claim a thrilling, 67-62 overtime victory Saturday night at the Idaho Center.

Gonzalez (31 points) and Harding (27) scored all but four Highland points, but it wasn’t enough as Post Falls’ depth and crunch-time composure carried the day.

“You’re not going to stop those two guys,” Post Falls coach Mike McLean said. “But we have guys who are fundamentally sound, and who compete and battle for everything. We believe, as a program, you’re not going to beat us with just two guys.”

McCullough was one of four Post Falls players in double figures, joined by seniors Dalton Thompson (16 points), Luke Anderson (13) and Jack Millsap (12).

The fifth starter, Jake Blakney, added seven points as the Trojans used team basketball to win their second state title since 2010.

McCullough, who led the Trojans with 50 points in their three state tournament games, set the tone early, scoring 13 first-quarter points as the Trojans (25-1) raced out to a 20-9 lead.

But Highland (22-3) would not stay quiet for long. Gonzalez, a Saint Mary’s signee, took over the second quarter, splashing 3-pointers from NBA range and crashing into the lane for an and-one layup as the Rams roared back to life.

He and Harding scored all 28 first-half points for Highland, which closed the gap to 33-28 at the half.

The game slowed down in the third quarter, which ended with Post Falls leading 39-35. That set the stage for a wild fourth quarter, which saw three ties and four lead changes as the teams exchanged clutch shots.

A Gonzalez triple gave Highland a 52-51 lead with 2:30 left, but Thompson answered with a 3-ball of his own to make it 54-52. Harding answered with a pull-up jumper to re-tie the score.

Gonzalez had a look at the winning shot, but his pull-up jumper was short with 5 seconds left.

In the extra session, Anderson hit his third 3 of the game to give Post Falls a lead it would never relinquish. McCullough hit two big jumpers to keep Post Falls in front, but Harding’s rainbow 3 from the corner cut the lead to 63-62 with 31 seconds remaining.

Millsap made two free throws to extend the lead to 65-62 with 21 seconds remaining. After Gonzalez missed at the rim, McCullough went to the line to seal it, but missed both foul shots.

Thompson, however, swooped in to grab his eighth rebound of the night, and he made both free throws with 10 seconds left to clinch the victory.

“It’s a great feeling,” Anderson said. “We’ve been together for a long time. We’ve been putting in work since Day One, and it’s nice to have it finally pay off.”

Kellogg 46, Fruitland 31: Tucker Gust scored 13 points and the Wildcats’ defense held the Grizzles to an 8 for 31 shooting night in winning the 3A consolation.

St. Maries 71, W. Jefferson 69: Mathew Smith and Logan Feasline each had double-doubles and the Lumberjacks used a 26-point fourth quarter to come-from-behind and take third place in 2A.

Smith finished with 23 points, 11 rebounds and Feasline had 14 points and 14 rebounds for St. Maries.

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