The future is bright for the Lake City boys basketball team, but the present belongs to the high-scoring, senior-laden Meridian Warriors.
McKay Anderson scored 23 points – including 19 in the first half – to lead four Warriors in double figures as Meridian pulled away for a 68-54 victory in the 5A State championship game Saturday at the Ford Idaho Center in Nampa.
Sophomore guard Kolton Mitchell battled foul trouble but still scored 15 points to lead Lake City (18-7). Zach Johnson (14 points, three steals), Blake Buchanan (11 points, nine rebounds) and Jack Kiesbuy (10 points) also chipped in for the Timberwolves, but it wasn’t enough to keep up with the Warriors.
“They came as advertised,” Lake City coach Jim Winger said. “That’s a talented group with lot of big, strong kids. They can run, they can shoot – just a very, very solid basketball team. With as physical as the game was, we just got worn down and couldn’t quite make a run on them.”
Meridian (20-1) went wire-to-wire as the top-ranked team in the state media poll while boasting 5A’s top-scoring offense and second-stingiest defense. Joe Mpoyo (10 points) Davis Thacker (10 points) and 6-foot-10 center Brody Rowberry (13 points) helped the red-hot Anderson shoulder the scoring load as the Warriors built a 40-32 halftime edge and methodically added to their lead down the stretch.
“Anderson was really good,” Winger said. “Rowberry, what can you say? He’s just a different animal altogether. I thought we actually did a good job on him. Our kids worked and competed all night.”
It was a matchup of unfamiliar faces in the state final.
Meridian last won it all in 1992 and hadn’t been to the title game since 2001. Lake City, seeking its first state championship, last reached the final in 2002.
“We just have to remember how it feels to come in second and watch another team win state,” Johnson said. “That was brutal. They played a better game tonight, but hopefully, we can come back and get one in the next couple of years.”
Meridian started a talented lineup that included four seniors and a junior. Lake City started three sophomores, all of whom scored in double figures. Experience and depth appeared to be factors, as Lake City struggled with foul trouble and ran out of gas in the second half. Meridian enjoyed a 12-0 advantage in bench scoring and had a huge differential at the free throw line, making 17 of 21 while Lake City went 5 of 6.
“Seniors come up big,” Meridian coach Jeff Sanor said. “They know this is their last opportunity, and they have a way of going out and making the plays that need to be made. That was huge for us tonight.”
St. Maries captures first state title since 1960
Down five points with less than 2 minutes to play, things looked bleak for the St. Maries Lumberjacks.
But Tristan Gentry delivered a pair of hustle plays that won’t soon be forgotten. The junior post grabbed two offensive rebounds and turned them into four crucial points as the Lumberjacks eked out a 51-50 victory over the Ambrose Archers in the 2A State championship game at Eagle High School.
Gentry finished with 16 points, 11 rebounds and two blocks for St. Maries (23-1), which celebrated its first state title since 1960.
“It’s surreal, it’s overwhelming,” Gentry said. “We’re fighters, we play great team ball, and we don’t care if anyone scores 20 points. We just want to win.”
Randie Becktel chipped in 10 points and seven rebounds for St. Maries.
Reserve big man Colby Renner – who hit a buzzer-beating 3-point heave Friday to send the Lumberjacks to the final – added nine points and Eli Gibson scored eight.
After St. Maries led most of the way, Ambrose rallied to take a 50-45 lead with 2:38 remaining. But the Lumberjacks got three straight defensive stops in crunch time, which led to Gibson twice hitting one free throw before missing the second. Both times, Gentry snagged the offensive rebound, converting a layup and two free throws as St. Maries ended the game on a 6-0 run.
Johnny Sugarman, who led Ambrose with 20 points, missed a potential go-ahead runner with 3.8 seconds left. The Lumberjacks inbounded to Gentry, who sprinted to half court before anyone could foul him and threw the ball toward the rafters as the buzzer sounded.
“I don’t know how we’ve pulled off these last couple wins,” St. Maries coach Bryan Chase said. “It just says a lot about these kids’ mentality and their will to win.”
Jerome 52, Lakeland 48: Mikey Lloyd scored 24 points and the Tigers (22-3) beat the Hawks (12-10) in the Idaho 4A State consolation final at Rocky Mountain HS.
Noah Haaland led Lakeland with 22 points.
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