THOMAS - The Sugar Salem Diggers invaded the Panther Lair at Snake River Wednesday night and the two teams stood like a pair of heavyweight fighters slugging it out on the defensive end before the Panthers edged clear in the late stages to register a 47-34 victory.
"We really played well defensively tonight against a strong team," said Coach Robert Coombs. "I expect that Sugar will finish first or second in their district so that is added emphasis on how well we played."
Getting 31 points from the senior tandem of C.J. Toulouse and Candon Watt, the Panthers got out of the gate quickly and established the tempo of the game in the first quarter.
"Toulouse comes to play each and every night so it was no surprise at how he started this game," said Coach Coombs. "He always gives us 100% at both ends and provides great leadership on the floor."
Toulouse tallied a pair of buckets to go along with a long three pointer in the early stages of the opening stanza as the Panthers established an 11-6 lead at the buzzer.
Running mate Candon Watt then got going with three quick buckets in the second period as the pair tallied 18 of Snake River's 24 first half points.
"I was able to get the ball inside and post up some of their players early, and use my quickness to get some good looks at the basket," said Toulouse. "Keegan (Keller) and Candon (Watt) were able to get the ball to me in good position and was fortunate enough to get the ball in the hole."
Sugar Salem was able to keep the score close through the first three periods of play on the strength of their free throw shooting and the play of post Colt Davidson who tallied ten points on the night, but down the stretch it was Snake River who made the clutch free throws and key buckets to edge clear.
"Tonight we played a full four quarters of basketball which is big for us," said Coach Coombs. "We executed on offense and forced them to take some shots that they don't normally take and Jacoby Johnson was just huge on the boards and made some very timely blocks inside."
Johnson, a sophomore, tallied 15 rebounds and four blocked shots on the evening which contributed to the solid defensive play of the Panthers. Every time Johnson made a play, the student section chanted "he's just a sophomore, he's just a sophomore" keeping the crowd in the game.
The Diggers were forced to foul late and Toulouse and Watt made six of eight charity tosses down the stretch to seal the win.
The Panthers host Marsh Valley on Friday night in a key fifth district contest as the teams battle down the stretch before district tournament play in a couple of weeks.
SSHS 6 14 8 6 34
SRHS 11 13 10 13 47
Sugar Salem (34) Kalin Miyasaki 7, Chasen Marler 2, Bo Briggs 3, Colt Davidson 10, Kenzy Fogle 2, Michael Lanson 3, Brandon Rhuton 2, Jason Hawkes 5 rebounds (26) Davidson 7 assists (6) Miyasaki 3 FT 9/17 3 pt FG 1/7 Briggs total fouls (21) fouled out - Rhuton
Snake River (47) Jacoby Johnson 6, Keegan Keller 6, Cole Rushton 4, Candon Watt 15, C.J. Toulouse 16 rebounds (36) Johnson 15 assists (8) Keller 3, C. Watt 3 FT 9/20 3 pt FG 2/10 C. Watt, Toulouse total fouls (16) fouled out none