POST FALLS – Anton Watson admitted this one meant a little more that the average preleague matchup.
Sure, both teams have state playoff aspirations. But Watson, who grew up “10 minutes from here” in Coeur d’Alene, put on a show in front of friends, family and a near-capacity crowd – including Gonzaga coach Mark Few and NBA Hall of Famer John Stockton.
Watson, a junior who has committed to Gonzaga, scored 28 points – including several rim-rattling dunks – and grabbed 11 rebounds to lead Gonzaga Prep (3-0) over Post Falls (1-1) 68-51 on Thursday night.
“The adrenaline, it was flowing tonight,” Watson said. “A lot of fans, a lot of my family, a lot of friends. It’s just fun like that.”
The highlight of the night came with 3:37 left in the third quarter. Watson took the ball at the elbow, crossed over and through traffic and dunked emphatically over three Trojans while being fouled.
He missed the free throw, but the play drew the biggest reaction from the crowd and was just one of eight dunks thrown down by the Bullpups.
“I did the crossover, so I had to finish with a dunk,” Watson said.
The dunk made it 46-25. Post Falls cut into the deficit a bit in the fourth but could never put together a run to threaten the lead.
Post Falls coach Mike McLean fought off the urge to be impressed with Watson while the game was going on.
“Anyone watching the game, people think, ‘Well Anton, he isn’t playing super hard,’ ” McLean said. “But he reminds me of those special players who – you watch the really, really good ones – they just look like they are playing at a level where they aren’t going as fast as everyone else but they are dominating. That’s just how gifted they are.
“His feel for the game is impressive. It’s hard to even coach (the game) and not watch him and think, ‘Wow, this kid’s got it.’ ”
On the other side, G-Prep coach Matty McIntyre was pleased with his team on the other side of the ball.
“We got out in transition, got some easy baskets. Got the energy up with some of the dunks and finishes at the rim,” McIntyre said. “But it’s all predicated on our defense. Our defense is what makes the whole thing go.”
“What I think separates Gonzaga Prep – and this is a credit to those kids and to (McIntyre) – in the 11 years I’ve been here we’ve never played against a team where every single kid plays so hard and so disciplined on defense,” McLean said.
The teams traded buckets early, but G-Prep turned a couple of turnovers into quick baskets, including a pair of dunks by Watson. On the second, Watson crossed over on the 6-foot-7 Jake Pfennigs then dunked over him. Watson had nine in the frame and G-Prep led 16-8 after one.
Watson played off the wing to draw Pfennigs out of the lane in the second quarter, allowing the Bullpups to take advantage of Jamaari Jones in a mismatch underneath. Jones hit a short jumper to make it 22-12, then a bit later made a layup, was fouled, and hit the free throw to put G-Prep up 28-15.
Nick Drynan drilled a 3-pointer at the first-half buzzer and G-Prep led 31-20 at intermission.
Jones went back at it in the third. He scored two quick inside baskets to give G-Prep a 15-point lead. Sam Lockett followed with a 3-pointer to put G-Prep up 38-20 just 2 minutes in. Watson nailed his second 3-pointer a minute later and the Bullpups led 41-21 with 5:35 in the frame.
Jones finished with 13 points and Lockett added 11.
McIntyre was effusive with praise for the work Jones did.
“I love the way he competes,” he said. “He’s a force on the glass. He’s a force down low. He’s only 6-2, but he plays a lot bigger than that. He can carve out space, he can finish around the rim. He’s a warrior.”
Colby Gennett paced Post Falls with 10 points. Pfennigs didn’t score in the first half and ended up with six points and 11 boards.
Post Falls 58, Gonzaga Prep 22: Tyler McCliment-Call scored 14 points, Bayley Brennan added 12 and the Trojans (5-0) ran away from the visiting Bullpups (1-2) in a nonleague matchup.
The Trojans’ Melody Kempton, bound for Gonzaga next season, scored 11 points with six blocks and didn’t play much in the second half.
“We got a little sloppy toward the end a little bit, but I though everybody did a nice job for us. Everybody kind of played their role,” Post Falls coach Marc Allert said.
“I thought defensively we were really good.”
Post Falls came out pressing and broke out to a quick 9-2 lead, with most of the points coming on layups in transition. G-Prep made a pair of free throw off a bench technical and a 3-pointer by Leah Carney cut it to 14-9.
G-Prep’s Makena Dodson nailed a 3 right before the end of the quarter and Post Falls led 16-12 after one. Kempton had four blocks in the first frame.
“The faster we can make it, the better,” Allert said of his early press. “Sometimes it looks pretty chaotic, seems a little chaotic at times, but we kind of thrive in that situation.”
The Trojans put together a six-point spurt at the start of the second, including a pair of short jumpers by McCliment-Call, to go up 23-12. McCliment-Call’s reverse layin with 1 1/2 minutes left in the half put Post Falls up by 14, and the Trojans took a 33-18 lead at the break.
Post Falls took over in the third. After Carney made the first bucket of the quarter, the Trojans ran off 17 consecutive points. Brennan had eight in the quarter, including back-to-back layups to make it a 25-point game. Post Falls led 53-22 at the end of the stanza to force a running clock in the fourth.
“We got a few transition baskets in the third quarter and got out a little bit,” Allert said.
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