Jason Christensen squares up for a shot during first half action at Hillcrest High School on Thursday evening.
IDAHO FALLS â€” The Shelley Russets entered the Dungeon at Hillcrest High School on Thursday night, looking to knock off the top seed in the 4A High Country Conference tournament.
At the end of a thrilling, foul infested affair, Shelley did just that, advancing to the conference title game with a 82-72 victory over the Knights.
"This was incredible," Shelley head coach Dave Hadley said. "Hillcrest are big, a great shooting team and they play hard. I'm really proud of my kids. They had discipline and even though their coach didn't do a very good job of putting a smile on his face because I was pretty stressed out, the kids did a good job of staying calm all night."
Free throws were huge for the Russets as they knocked down 26 of 31 attempts from the line, including 20 makes in the second half when the pressure was on.
"That was awesome to watch us step up like that in a pressure situation and make those free throws down the stretch," coach Hadley said. "You knew that when Hillcrest got down that they would gamble a little bit to try and get back in it."
Hillcrest led for the entirety of the first half, but a late surge, keyed by back-to-back treys by McKay Cannon, closed the gap to 32-28, sending the Russets into the locker room with the momentum on their sideline.
"We didn't run offense in the first half," coach Hadley said. "We really felt coming in that we had an advantage with Chad [Cather] on the inside and that they would play behind him on the post and when he got touches, we got shots and then we would go for a 2 to 3 minute stretch where we didn't get a good shot so I told the kids that we have got to run the offense and I thought that in the third quarter we had great offensive execution and it made a difference."
Out of the break, Shelley exploded as Cannon did his best John Stockton impression, finding open man, after open man for easy baskets. An acrobatic lay in by Chad Leckington tied the game for the first time since the opening minutes and Chad Cather gave the Russets the lead for good, three minutes into the third quarter as he drew the foul, plus the basket, making the score 39-38.
After a stop, Cannon found Jason Christensen in the corner for a three ball as Shelley eventually pulled out to a 16-point lead over the stunned Knights.
"McKay did a really good job of running the pick and roll stuff tonight," coach Hadley said. "I thought the biggest point in the game was that set when he hit Chad inside on the pick and roll and the next time down we ran the same play and he made a ball fake to Chad and then hit Jason [Christensen] in the corner for a three that then got Jason going."
Hillcrest showed their metal however, scratching a clawing to within 4-points late in the fourth quarter, but there was no denying the Russets on this night as a parade of players sank their charity tosses for the win.
Shelley (13-9) will take on Madison Tuesday for the conference title at 7:30 P.M.
SHS 9 19 28 26 - 82
HHS 17 15 13 27 - 72
Shelley - Kyle Killpack 2, Jason Christensen 19, T. J. Stommel 2, Chad Leckington 11, Chad Cather 21, Will Higham 6, McKay Cannon 21; rebounds (24) Chad Cather 7; assists (15) McKay Cannon 6; FT - 26/31; 3pt- 8/14 (Jason Christensen 3, McKay Cannon 3, Will Higham 2); fouls - 22; fouled out - Will Higham
Hillcrest - Taylor Roe 2, Tyson McDonald 6, Taylor Brooks 16, Blake Phippen 7, Matt Hansen 10, Austin Christensen 1, Ian Johnson 9, Scott Baldwin 9, Tyler Cunningham 12; rebounds (18) Taylor Brooks 6; assists (12) Ian Johnson 3; FT - 21/34; 3pt - 5/17 (Scott Baldwin 3, Tyson McDonald 1, Blake Phippen 1); fouls - 24; fouled out - none
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