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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Buchanan helps Lake City roll to first state championship with win over Meridian 75-61

By Jordan Rodriguez For The Spokesman-Review

NAMPA, Idaho – A dominant effort by standout big man Blake Buchanan and plenty of help from his talented supporting cast finally led the Lake City boys basketball team to the promised land.

Buchanan, a 6-foot-10 senior committed to Virginia, punctuated his high school career with 26 points and 11 rebounds as the Timberwolves pulled away for a 75-61 victory over Meridian in the State 5A final Saturday at Ford Idaho Center.

Nathan Hocking added 22 points on 9-for-11 shooting and Deacon Kiesbuy chipped in 13 as Lake City completed a 26-0 season by capturing the first state championship in program history.

“The thing I keep telling people is these guys are not only the best team we’ve ever had at Lake City – they’re also the best group of kids to be around,” Timberwolves coach Jim Winger said. “They get along, they have great chemistry, they care about each other. And when you have that, combined with their talent, it’s just a special group.

“They’re a once-in-a-lifetime kind of high school team.”

The night ended in celebration, but the game got off to a rocky start for Lake City. Buchanan scored on his first touch of the game, but he was whistled for a charge on his second. Meridian scored nine unanswered points to grab an early lead. The Warriors, who had 10 players log significant playing time, used their depth and 3-point shooting to maintain a lead throughout most of the first half.

“We got hit in the mouth early, but I liked our response,” Winger said. “The kids were calm, there was no panic. We knew we had a lot of game left, and we knew Blake was going to cause some problems for them over the course of four quarters.”

As the game wore on, Lake City found its footing and methodically took control. Free throws by Buchanan with 1:08 left in the second quarter gave the Timberwolves their first lead since 2-0, and Kiesbuy hit a 3-pointer just before the buzzer to make it 37-33 at halftime.

The Timberwolves never looked back. Back-to-back 3s by Idaho State-bound point guard Kolton Mitchell and Hocking extended the lead to 47-38 early in the third quarter, forcing a Meridian timeout. With swarming half-court defense, steady offense (only six turnovers in the game) and the omnipresent Buchanan patrolling the paint, Lake City continued to control both the game and the scoreboard, and Meridian never seriously threatened down the stretch.

“I love this team,” Buchanan said. “We did it together, we did it as a team. You know, after we got upset last year in the first round at state, to come back and work our butts off all offseason and get to where we are now, it’s a special feeling.”

Mitchell and Zach Johnson chipped in seven points apiece for Lake City, which got all of its scoring from its all-senior starting five. The Timberwolves shot 52% from the field, 43% from downtown and enjoyed big edges in paint points (22-8) and second-chance points (12-0).

Buchanan was the fulcrum of the Lake City offense, but when Meridian, which doesn’t have a player over 6-foot-4, sent extra defenders at him, the big man’s teammates were ready to capitalize, led by the hot-shooting Hocking.

“I love the pressure of these big games,” Hocking said. “That’s when it’s time to step up for my teammates. Getting this win, it’s surreal, and it’s so bittersweet. Bitter because I love these guys, and I know I’ll never get to play with them again.

“But to know we ended it well and did exactly what we were hoping to accomplish, that’s the sweet, sweet feeling.”

Ryan Baker led Meridian with 14 points and Josh Christensen added 10 for the Warriors.

Sugar-Salem 52, Bonners Ferry 47: Koy Sanderson scored 14 points and the Diggers edged the Badgers for the 3A State championship at Meridian High School.

Thomas Bateman had 10 points for Bonners Ferry.