NAMPA, Idaho – The chips were stacked against the Post Falls girls basketball team Saturday night.
Facing nationally ranked, undefeated Eagle in front of a partisan crowd at the Ford Idaho Center, the Trojans faced their toughest test of the season.
Together, they found a way to get it done. Despite foul trouble for star senior Melody Kempton and a resilient opponent that refused to go away quietly, the Trojans persevered and claimed the 5A State championship with a gutsy 62-53 victory.
“Everybody played their role,” Post Falls coach Marc Allert said. “That’s what this team has been about – everyone is important, and they all work well together.”
Sophomore guard Tyler McCliment-Call capped a stellar tournament with 21 points and Kempton added 13 points and nine rebounds as the Trojans (24-2) banded together to end Eagle’s perfect season.
“We wanted to be state champs,” Gonzaga-bound Kempton said. “They were undefeated, but we used it to our advantage. They hadn’t had to deal with coming back to win a lot of close games, but we have. We were prepared for it.”
Unafraid to run with high-scoring Eagle, Post Falls pushed the tempo early. McCliment-Call poured in 11 first-quarter points as the Trojans seized a 17-12 advantage.
Missed opportunities kept Post Falls from adding to its lead in the second quarter. The pace slowed to a crawl as the Trojans missed nine first-half free throws and all six of their 3-point attempts. At halftime, the lead had been trimmed to 23-20.
Kempton went to the bench early in the third quarter with her third foul, but her teammates picked up the slack. Seniors Mackenzie Morris and Sydney Parks helped control the glass and scored three big baskets as the Trojans rebuilt their lead to 40-31 heading into the final quarter. Morris and Parks combined for 10 points and 10 rebounds in the game.
“Our team motto is to play together and play for Post Falls,” Parks said. “That’s what we really did tonight.”
Role players continued to step up down the stretch as the Trojans held off Eagle’s furious attempts at a rally. Parks and Jacksen McCliment-Call made huge 3-pointers. Jenna Gardiner sank two clutch free throws. And senior guard Bayley Brennan shook off a tournament-long shooting slump to sink 6 of 6 foul shots down the stretch, finishing with 13 points.
“We finally accomplished the goal we’ve been working toward for so long,” Brennan said. “I knew we could do it, and I’m so happy we got it done with this team.”
Janie King scored 18 points and Meghan Boyd added 13 for Eagle (26-1). Both teams shot better than 40 percent, but rebounding was a major factor as Post Falls enjoyed a 39-21 advantage on the glass.
Post Falls’ victory avenged a close loss to Eagle in last year’s state semifinals. The game bore many similarities – an early lead for the Trojans, foul trouble for Kempton and a late charge by the Mustangs – but this time, Post Falls finished the job.
“I had some flashbacks,” Allert said. “Last year when Mel fouled out, everybody kind of looked at me like, ‘Now what do we do?’ This year, it was like, ‘Hey, we got this.’ I could see it in their eyes, just a totally different confidence.”
The state title is Post Falls’ fifth and second under Allert, who also led the Trojans to the 2013 championship.
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