ABERDEEN — Friday nights showdown with Aberdeen and American Falls had all the ear marks befitting of the classic rivalry, with both teams nailing big shots from the field, both teams playing tough defense, and the game coming down to the last shot of the game as American Falls escaped the Tiger Den with a 44-43 victory.
"This was a good game for us to be in," Aberdeen head coach Cory Hollingsworth said. "Like I told the kids. We could be in an easy blow out type of game but our district games are going to be just like this. Close, physical contests and I felt that our kids handled tonight's game really well."
In a game that featured 5 ties and 3 lead changes the bitter rivals scratched and clawed for every possession while the capacity crowd roared their approval, or dismay on every shot.
Aberdeen, normally a solid free throw shooting team, struggled from the charity stripe as the Tigers shot a paltry 13 of 26 from the line.
Those freebies especially hurt in the first half of play as the at one point the Tigers missed 8 straight leading to a 23-19 Beavers lead at the half.
"I don't think that the kids were feeling extra pressure," coach Hollingsworth said. "I'm not concerned, we are a good free throw shooting team. It was just one of those nights."
Out of the break American Falls slowed the ball down, working time off the clock on nearly every offensive possession and then on the defensive end they employed a stingy zone defense look that caused the Tigers some problems.
In the quarter Aberdeen was able to connect on just one field goal, that being a trey off the hands of Zeke Uribe.
"The third quarter was what cost us," coach Hollingsworth said. "We preach about coming out and getting a quick start to the third quarter and we didn't do it."
American Falls took advantage, doubling their leading margin on the scoreboard for a 31-23 lead heading into the final stanza.
That lead swelled to 10 and 33-23 before the Tigers started chipping away.
Senior guard, Jake Ponce led the charge in the final quarter, reeling off 10-straight points for the Tigers before Bronson Goff tied the game at 39-39 with a deep trey from the corner with 2:01 remaining.
"The kids did a great job, really good effort to get themselves back into it," coach Hollingsworth said.
The Beavers responded with a quick 5-0 run however and the Tigers again tried to mount a comeback.
Ironically enough, the Tigers were able to pull the game to within 1-point by knocking down 4 straight free throws and had the ball in their possession with :21 seconds remaining.
After a time out, the Tigers moved the ball around the perimeter, eventually fining Goff in the corner with about :10 remaining. Goff drove the baseline and got a soft floating shot off that caromed off the back iron. Fabian Flores grabbed the offensive rebound and pitched the ball back to Goff who launched a high arcing shot that came up just short.
"We wanted to give Bronson a dribble penetration at about twelve seconds with Jake trailing for a kick and shot," coach Hollingsworth said. "He got veered off course but it worked, he got a good look at the basket and you can't complain about that."
Ponce led the Tigers with 19 points on the night as Aberdeen fell to 2-2 on the season.
American Falls 44, Aberdeen 43
AFHS 9 14 8 13 - 44
AHS 9 10 4 20 - 43
American Falls (44) - Ross Palmer 10, Ryan Wright 13, Jutin Kress 3, Josh Wageman 8, Michael Palacios 2, Alex Mancilla 2, Tony Torres 5 rebounds (26) Josh Wageman 7 assists (10) Tony Torres 3 FT: 4/8 3PT: 4/11 fouls: 23 fouled out: Tony Torres
Aberdeen (43) - Zeke Uribe 9, Fabian Flores 3, McClain Foster 2, Bronson Goff 4, Mike Wynn 8, Jake Ponce 17 rebounds (22) Jake Ponce 6 assists (9) Jake Ponce 4 FT: 13/26 3PT: 5/14 Zeke Uribe 3, Bronson Goff, Jake Ponce fouls: 14 fouled out: none